Iraq president in Paris for talks with Chirac

11th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 11 (AFP) - Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar was due in Paris later this week for talks with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac and other top officials aimed at repairing ties that have been strained in recent months.

PARIS, Jan 11 (AFP) - Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar was due in Paris later this week for talks with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac and other top officials aimed at repairing ties that have been strained in recent months.

Yawar was due to arrive in the French capital on Wednesday, but his visit was scheduled to begin in earnest on Thursday, when he will be received by Chirac at the Elysee palace for talks followed by a lunch.

The Iraqi president was set to meet French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier on Friday, and to see other officials and top lawmakers before leaving France on Saturday.

"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."

A group of Iraqi politicians from 14 parties on Tuesday were received by the French senate and Barnier, the foreign ministry said, though it refused to give any details of what was discussed.

The head of the senate who received the Iraqis, Christian Poncelet, also avoided commenting on the group's activities, preferring to speak in general terms about Iraq.

"The Iraqis have to return to being masters of their own fate," he said in a statement, adding that "the withdrawal of the foreign troops is a fundamental condition for the success of the transition process."

Yawar's visit, which comes less than three weeks before landmark elections in his violence-wracked country, was initially set for September, but was cancelled after two French journalists were taken hostage in August.

This time around, Paris is waiting for news of French reporter Florence Aubenas, a senior correspondent for the daily Liberation who went missing with her Iraqi translator last week after leaving her Baghdad hotel.

When Chirac announced Yawar would visit France at a European Union summit in Brussels two months ago, the French president subsequently left the meeting for a trip to Abu Dhabi without seeing Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Yawar later pushed back a November visit to France due to the volatile situation in his home country.

Chirac insisted he had "never refused" to meet with Allawi in Brussels, but the Iraqi prime minister had angered France with a series of verbal attacks on the country that most vocally opposed the US-led war in Iraq.

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 the two French reporters by insurgents.

Allawi was irked by French calls to include Iraqi opposition groups in the international conference on the country's future which Egypt hosted in November in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

He was also displeased at France's call for the conference to discuss a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

In December, Allawi visited Germany and Russia, which had both opposed the US-led war to topple Saddam Hussein, but left France off his itinerary.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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