France to loan $512 mln to Iraq: foreign ministry

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. (AFP)

France is to grant a $512-million loan to Iraq whose economy has been weakened by low oil prices and its fight against militants, a French foreign ministry official said on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made the announcement during talks in Baghdad with Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and said the $512-million (430 million euros) would be released before the end of 2017, the official told AFP.

“France was present from the beginning of the battles against ISIS and will be present as well during time of peace,” said Le Drian, who was accompanied by Defence Minister Florence Parly.

The loan is aimed at helping the war-torn country implement reforms, improve public services and boost the performance of its state enterprises.

Le Drian also handed Abadi an invitation from French President Emmanuel Macron to visit Paris.

The ministers will also meet Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani in Arbil, where they are to echo calls by Pentagon chief Jim Mattis for the postponement of next month’s independence referendum.

The visit by France’s foreign and defense ministers come as Iraqi forces announced the ouster of the ISIS group from the center of Tal Afar, one of the militants’ last remaining stronghold in the north.

ALSO READ: Iraq forces recapture city of Tal Afar from ISIS

The advance, just days into an assault on the strategic town, comes six weeks after Abadi declared victory over ISIS in second city Mosul, where the militant group declared its “caliphate” in 2014.

One the plane to Baghdad, Le Drian said that Iraq now faced the dual challenge of “a war that is coming to an end and the beginning of the stabilization and reconstruction”.

France is a key member of the US-led coalition that has been battling ISIS in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

French forces have carried out air and artillery strikes in support of Iraqi operations against the militants, who have lost much of the swathes of territory they had seized in 2014. 

Reconstruction

France, which refused to take part in the 2003 American-led invasion that brought down Saddam Hussein, is keen to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq.

The cost of reconstruction has been estimated at between $700 billion and $1 trillion (590 billion to 840 billion euros).

The loan is aimed at helping the war-torn country implement reforms, improve public services and boost the performance of its state enterprises.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50
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