Sarkozy makes first trip to Iraq

Posted in Europe | 11-Feb-09 | Author: Angelique Chrisafis| Source: The Guardian (UK)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy speaks during a press conference in Baghdad.

Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday made his first trip to Iraq, to carve out a role for France in the reconstruction process and end any lingering US-French animosity over the 2003 invasion.

The first visit by a non-coalition leader since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was tailored to send three messages: Paris wants a key role for French diplomacy in the region, French firms are keen for contracts in rebuilding Iraq, and France is prepared to co-operate with Barack Obama.

Sarkozy has sought to rebuild relations with the White House, soured by Jacques Chirac's refusal to back the US-led invasion.

In Baghdad, Sarkozy said France's willingness to take part in the economic development of Iraq knew "no limits".

"We seek co-operation in the economic field, energy, reconstruction, and to help the police, security and Iraqi military forces, as well as restoring Iraq's international position," he said, adding: "My coming here is to tell French companies: the time has come. Come and invest."

Defence, oil and water are key sectors for French involvement in Iraq and a business delegation from Paris is due to visit.