France announced Monday that it had re-established diplomatic relations with Iraq, severed under the leadership of the dictator Saddam Hussein.
In Paris, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said that France “wants to participate in the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq.”
Political analysts said that, given France’s longstanding opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, it was unlikely that it would suddenly win reconstruction contracts.
“It is not a signal other than this is Iraq getting itself into the international game again,” said James Goldgeier, a professor of political science at George Washington University in Washington. “If the U.S. really starts to phase out of the running of the country after the elections in ’05, then we are going to see more competition among countries to get in on the action in Iraq.”
Iraq cut diplomatic ties with France in 1991, but since 1996, the French have maintained a diplomatic presence at their embassy in Baghdad under the auspices of Romania.
Pascale Boniface, director of the Institute for International and Strategic Relations in Paris, said renewing ties with France would help the new Iraqi government establish its legitimacy.
“Iraq has to show that it is not locked into a subservience to the United States,” Boniface said. For the French government, he said, recognizing the U.S.-backed government is a necessary step to protecting French interests in the region.
“People with different interests have a mutual interest in masking their differences,” Boniface said.
The renewal of ties came as Iraq’s new foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, met in Brussels with European Union foreign ministers to win help rebuilding his country.
Zebari said he wanted to show that the new Iraqi government was not “window dressing” for the United States, and he won a pledge from the Europeans to continue helping to rebuild Iraq.
But Zebari dismissed a call by the Europeans for Iraq to outlaw the death penalty.
“The reality we face on the ground demands and requires some tougher action to bring the security situation under control,” Zebari said.
The European Union has pledged to spend E305 million, or $378 million, in humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Iraq this year, and a similar amount is planned for next year, The Associated Press reported. Aid workers for the EU have so far stayed across the Iraqi border in Jordan for safety.
Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, a veteran diplomat who has had “a distinguished career” and served in key posts around the world, was chosen from a short list of three “highly qualified” candidates after extensive consultations, said Marie Okabe, a UN spokeswoman.
The other contenders were former Indian Foreign Secretary Salman Haidar and former Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan, she said. Like Qazi, they are Muslims.
The new UN special representative to Iraq will replace the top UN envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was one of 22 people killed in the Aug. 19, 2003, bombing at UN headquarters in Baghdad. The secretary general ordered all UN international staff members to leave Iraq in October after a second bombing at the headquarters and a spate of attacks. Despite the upsurge in violence in Iraq, Annan has said he expects the new UN envoy to be based in Baghdad. But Annan has said he will not allow large numbers of UN staff member to return until the security improves.
The UN must get “the sufficient security guarantees from both the Iraqis and from the forces on the ground” before he can be deployed, she said.
The resolution adopted last month by the UN Security Council endorsing the transfer of power to Iraq’s new interim government authorized the U.S.-led multinational force to remain in the country to help ensure security.0
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