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Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announces the start of an offensive to retake the western side of Mosul as troops begin to move towards Islamic State, in this still image from video by Iraqiya TV February 19, 2017. Iraqiya TV/via Reuters TV

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SULEIMANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraq will continue to hit Islamic State targets in Syria, as well as in neighbouring countries if they give their approval, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Wednesday.

"I respect the sovereignty of states, and I have secured the approval of Syria to strike positions (on its territory)," he told a conference in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya.

Abadi on Feb. 24 announced the first Iraqi air strike inside Syrian territory, targeting Islamic State positions in retaliation for bomb attacks in Baghdad.

"I will not hesitate to strike the positions of the terrorists in the neighbouring countries, we will keep on fighting them," Abadi said.

The total damage to property and infrastructure caused by Islamic State is about $35 billion, he said.

The hardline group has lost most Iraqi cities in captured in northern and western Iraq in 2014 and 2015 and is now fighting off a U.S.-backed offensive on its last major urban stronghold, in the city of Mosul. The group also controls parts of Syria.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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