France pledges multi-million loan to help Iraqi economy
France has pledged to give a loan worth more than $500m to the Iraqi government, which is faced with an economy crippled by low oil prices and the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.
Visiting Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a meeting with Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad that the 420m euros ($512m) would be released before the end of 2017, the official told AFP.
France is a major partner in the US-led coalition helping Baghdad to fight IS militants who seized parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The coalition provided key air and ground support for Iraqi forces in the nine-month campaign to take Mosul, the Islamic State group's capital in Iraq.
The fall of Mosul, in July, marked the end of IS rule over parts of Iraq and Syria.
“We are present in the war, and we will be present in the peace,” Le Drian told a news conference in Baghdad with French Defence Minister Florence Parly and Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
“Even if our joint combat against Daesh is not finished, it is entering a phase of stabilisation, of reconciliation, of reconstruction, a phase of peace,” Le Drian said, referring to IS by its Arabic acronym.
The French ministers were also due to meet Iraqi Kurdish leaders in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region, whose Peshmerga fighters have also played a key part in the fight against IS.
France and other Western countries are worried that the plan by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to hold an independence referendum next month could ignite fresh conflict with Baghdad and neighbouring states that host sizeable Kurdish communities, mainly Iran and Turkey.
A diplomat familiar with French policy said Le Drian and Parly will convey to KRG President Massoud Barzani the French position in favour of an autonomous Kurdistan that remains part of the Iraqi state.
The French ministers and Jaafari did not mention the fate of families of French citizens who fought with IS, found in Mosul and other areas taken back from the militants.
Several hundred French nationals are believed to have joined the group.