Chirac hosts talks with Iraqi president

13th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 13 (AFP) - Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawar met with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac on Thursday for talks aimed at repairing strained ties, less than three weeks ahead of scheduled elections in Iraq.

PARIS, Jan 13 (AFP) - Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawar met with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac on Thursday for talks aimed at repairing strained ties, less than three weeks ahead of scheduled elections in Iraq.

Chirac greeted Yawar on the steps of the Elysee presidential palace. The two shook hands for the cameras before heading inside for talks followed by a luncheon. No press conference was scheduled at the end of the meeting.

The Iraqi president was due to meet with Foreign Minister Michel Barnier on Friday and with senior French lawmakers before heading home on Saturday. Yawar, who arrived in Paris on Wednesday, is the first Iraqi president to make an official visit to France, but the trip was unfolding rather discreetly, as relations between Paris and Baghdad have been strained for months.

The visit was pushed back in September after the kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq and a series of barbs launched by Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi against France for not supporting the US-led war.

An editorial in the newspaper of Allawi's Iraqi National Accord said that after refusing to send troops to Iraq, France had only itself to blame for the August kidnapping of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot by insurgents.

In November, Chirac abruptly left an EU summit in Brussels without meeting Allawi, a move widely perceived as a snub despite Chirac's insistence that he had "never refused" to meet the Iraqi prime minister.

Following the incident, Yawar's trip to France was postponed again, this time due to the volatile situation in the country, according to Iraqi officials in Paris.

Thursday's talks between Yawar and Chirac are now seen as significant given the timing, with landmark elections scheduled to take place in violence-wracked Iraq on January 30.

It also comes as France is anxiously awaiting news of Florence Aubenas, a senior correspondent for the daily Liberation who, along with her Iraqi translator, went missing in Baghdad more than a week ago.

France, which opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, has strongly backed the organisation of elections, and also wants to be involved in the reconstruction process.

"This trip will provide the opportunity to highlight France's determination at the highest levels to develop a dialogue with the Iraqi authorities," French foreign ministry spokeswoman Cecile Pozzo di Borgo told reporters on Tuesday.

She said the visit also would give Paris the chance to show "its commitment to the Iraqi people and its support for the transition process now in progress, which will allow the Iraqi people to regain power over their own destiny."

This week, members of 14 Iraqi political parties - including some from the parties tipped to succeed in the January 30 polls - met with Barnier and members of the French senate as part of a five-day fact-finding mission.

"The solution to the problems in Iraq is not a security matter, but a political one," Senate president Christian Poncelet said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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