WASHINGTON Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi thanked U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday for removing Iraq from a travel ban affecting several Muslim-majority countries and said he sought stronger cooperation in fighting Islamic State militants.
The two leaders sat down face to face at the White House for the first time since Trump took office on Jan. 20. Abadi is trying to defeat Islamic State militants who seized broad swaths of Iraqi territory.
After an appeal from Abadi, Trump decided this month’s revised order temporarily banning the entry of travellers from several Muslim-majority nations would not include Iraq because of its cooperation with the United States. Both the initial Jan. 27 travel ban and the revised version have been blocked by federal courts.
Detractors argue the ban discriminated against Muslims in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom. Trump says the measure is necessary for national security to protect the country from terrorist attacks.
“I thank you for removing Iraq from the presidential order … this was a positive response to the Iraqi request that betters the relationship with Iraq and the value of Iraq as far as Iraqi-American relations,” Abadi told Trump.
Trump told Abadi that he knew his forces were fighting hard against Islamic State.
“It’s not an easy job,” Trump said. “It’s a very tough job. Your soldiers are fighting hard. I know Mosul is moving along. … We will figure something out.
“Our main thrust is we have to get rid of ISIS. We’re going to get rid of ISIS. It will happen. It’s happening right now,” Trump added, using an acronym for Islamic State.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney)