King of Spain visits Iraq, first in 40 years — diplomat
BAGHDAD — Spain’s King Felipe VI on Wednesday visited special forces helping Iraq fight jihadists, during the first trip by a Spanish monarch to the war-ravaged country in four decades, a diplomat said.
The king, whose country is a member of an international coalition battling the Islamic State group, also later met President Barham Saleh.
Iraq in 2017 declared victory over IS following a bruising months-long campaign backed by the coalition, which continues to carry out operations against the jihadists.
Spain, which took part in the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq that overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein, went on to support Iraqi troops as they battled to roll back IS, which seized a third of the country including second city Mosul in 2014.
Hundreds of Spanish military instructors remain in the country.
King Felipe is one of a series of leaders to visit Baghdad since the start of the year, including US President Donald Trump, who drew criticism for failing to meet a single Iraqi official.
Baghdad has also hosted the chief diplomats of its two main allies, Washington and Tehran — themselves bitter enemies.
Iraq’s precarious position has been complicated by Trump’s shock decision last month to pull troops from neighbouring Syria.
That has prompted pro-Iran factions to intensify their calls for an accelerated withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. /kga
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