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Iraq rejects UAE claims of Qatar funding paramilitaries

UAE's foreign minister alleged the Qatari government paid various 'terrorist' groups up to $1bn, a claim Doha denied.

Popular Mobilisation Forces

Iraq has expressed concern over an Emirati official's remarks claiming the country's Shia-dominated paramilitary forces have received funds from Qatar.

Iraq's foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Mahjoub on Wednesday questioned the validity of the allegations made by the United Arab Emirates Foreign Affairs Minister Anwar Gargash.

"These remarks come as an obstacle at a time when Iraq is seeking to strengthen its ties with the UAE," Mahjoob said.

"They are a cause for concern over the possibility of fostering and developing relations," he told Russian news agency Sputnik.

In a Twitter post on Monday, Gargash accused the Qatari government of paying various "terrorist" groups up to $1bn, naming Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces, the Lebanon-based Hezbollah movement, and al-Nusra Front, now known as Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham.

'Promoting lies'

The accusations are the latest made by the Gulf emirate against Qatar. 

UAE - along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt - severed diplomatic ties with Doha in June last year and imposed an air, sea, and land blockade, while accusing Qatar of supporting "extremism" and developing ties with Iran - their regional rival.

Qatar has vehemently denied all allegations.

Ahmed Saeed al-Rumaihi, head of Qatar's media office for the foreign ministry, described Gargash's accusations as "baseless" and made without evidence. The comments were merely "promoting lies", Rumaihi added.

Roughly 60 factions make up Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF, also known as PMU) - an umbrella of armed groups rallied by Iraq's ethnic and tribal leaders. 

PMF's 40 divisions - comprising more than 60,000 fighters - played a key role in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which captured a large swath of Iraq in 2014, but now has been defeated.

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