France keen to assist Iraq, says foreign minister

Jean-Yves Le Drian. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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France keen to assist Iraq, says foreign minister

BAGHDAD: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Monday expressed his country’s desire to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq’s infrastructure — damaged by the three-year war on Daesh — according to a statement issued by the Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Le Drian led a delegation to Baghdad and met his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim Al-Jaafari and several other Iraqi officials.
The two sides discussed bilateral relations and how to strengthen them; prominent regional and international issues; and the importance of France’s participation in the reconstruction of Iraq.
“I came to Iraq to emphasize our continued support to the Iraqi people in various fields, and we look forward to contributing to the reconstruction of the infrastructure of Iraqi cities,” Le Drian said.
According to the statement, Le Drian said French President Emmanuel Macron would visit Baghdad soon and expressed his country’s readiness to complete the cooperation agreement that was previously put forward between the two countries.
“We count on the role of Iraq in resolving the crisis in Syria and its cooperation with France in this regard,” Le Drian said.
Monday's visit coincided with the launch of the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, at which Iraq presented more than 150 major strategic projects for potential investors.
The majority of European countries are seeking investment opportunities in Iraq in return for their support for the Iraqi government during its war against terrorism. Investing in the oil sector is the main target for these countries, sources said.
“Iraq will not forget the friendly countries that stood by its side and supported us… and looks forward to (seeing) their contribution to the reconstruction of the infrastructure of Iraqi cities,” Jaafari said.
“The partnership between Iraq and France is very important and we must make more effort to activate common interests and face common dangers,” he added.
Iraqi government sources told Arab News that Iraq and France have been working together to develop a “Strategic Framework Agreement,” which is scheduled to be signed this year.
The agreement will apparently include the participation of French troops in the war against terrorism; joint understandings over the demands of the Human Rights Court related to banning the death penalty against European terrorists who have committed crimes in Iraq and Syria; and the participation of French companies in the reconstruction of Iraq.
The sources added that the Iraqi army may take part in the military parade for France’s Bastille Day celebrations in July.


Thousands of Algerian protesters gather in central Algiers: witnesses

Updated 4 min 37 sec ago
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Thousands of Algerian protesters gather in central Algiers: witnesses

  • “Rain will not stop us from continuing our pressure,” said a protester
  • Protest numbers have grown dramatically after prayers on the three previous Fridays during the series of demonstrations that kicked off on Feb. 22

ALGIERS: The number of protesters gathered in central Algiers to demand the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika swiftly swelled into the thousands on Friday, a Reuters reporter on the scene said.
Crowds were growing even before Friday prayers had started after which even bigger numbers are expected to join to protest.

Earlier, hundreds of Algerians took to the streets of the capital to demand President Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit immediately.
Protesters gathered in the city center defying rain, carrying Algerian flags and pamphlets, gathering in the same spot where a wave of demonstrations erupted a month ago.
“Rain will not stop us from continuing our pressure,” said 23-year old Ahmed Khoudja.
Bouteflika, who has ruled for 20 years, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term. But he has stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.
His move has failed to appease Algerians, who want veterans of the 1954-62 independence war against France who dominate the establishment to quit so a new generation of leaders can take over and begin to create jobs, fight corruption and introduce greater freedoms.
Protest numbers have grown dramatically after prayers on the three previous Fridays during the series of demonstrations that kicked off on Feb 22.
“We stay here until the whole system goes,” said Mahmoud Timar, a 37-year old teacher.
Leaders have emerged from the protest movement, offering an alternative to Bouteflika’s political roadmap to what he says will be a new Algeria. But they have not yet built up enough momentum to force him to quit or make more concessions.
The military, which wields enormous power from behind the scenes, has remained on the sidelines, and is seen as unlikely to intervene as long as the protests remain peaceful.