Iranian firms dominate Baghdad expo as Saudis steer clear

BAGHDAD, Nov 12 (Reuters) – While Saudi Arabia courted Iraqi leaders behind closed doors at the weekend, its arch-foe Iran made a more public showing by turning out at the Baghdad International Fair, a shop window for business in Iraq.

An entire hangar was set aside for some of the 60 Iranian firms participating. Vendors of steel, chemical products and carpets greeted prospective Iraqi customers with tea and sweets, exchanging pleasantries in Persian and broken Arabic.

If the region’s most bitter rivalry was expected to be on display – last year dozens of Saudi companies also took part – it was an indication of how that is playing out in Iraq. No Saudi firms attended this year.

Riyadh instead focused on high-level meetings, with Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih paying a visit to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in Baghdad. The countries pledged to co-operate on oil and energy, while new Iraqi President Barham Salih made Gulf Arab states the destination for his first official trip abroad.