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France Honors Iraqi President Talabani With State Visit


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Iraqi President Jalal Talibani marks his first official trip to France with a four-day visit that includes meetings with French political and business leaders.

Iraqi President Jalal Talibani is getting the red-carpet treatment in France, with the Iraqi flag flying on the Champs Elysees in Paris. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is hosting a dinner for Mr. Talibani who is also expected to meet with French business leaders.

The visit underscores the turnaround in French-Iraqi relations. In 2003, France led international opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq. But in February, President Sarkozy paid his first visit to Baghdad.

French Ambassador to Iraq Boris Bouillon says today Paris is eager to capture a share of lucrative oil and reconstruction deals in Iraq.

Boillon told French radio that business potential in Iraq is enormous. He said the cost of reconstructing Iraq is estimated at $600-billion, and Iraq has massive oil reserves. And he said French business expertise in water, oil and infrastructure development is known worldwide, and France wants to be at the forefront of reconstructing Iraq.

France and Iraq are expected to sign several agreements dealing with aid, agricultural development, business and culture during Mr. Talibani's visit. French oil company Total also hopes to sign new deals to explore and drill in Iraq.

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