Iraq welcomes Paris overture

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The Independent Online
NICOSIA (AP) - Iraq yesterday welcomed France's decision to establish a diplomatic presence in Baghdad and attacked the United States for its criticism of the French move.

The US reaction to the French decision was prompted by "barbarism and hatred," the Iraqi government newspaper al-Jumhuriyah said.

The US State Department has called the Paris decision untimely. Al-Jumhuriyah claimed the French move showed the US administration has begun to lose influence on the UN Security Council.

The article said that "by complying with all the resolutions issued against it, Iraq has pulled the carpet out from under the United States, exposing the US position on the international level and within the UN Security Council".

France announced on Friday that it would soon open an interest section in Baghdad based at the Romanian Embassy.

Formerly a key trade partner and arms supplier for Iraq, France has been positioning itself to snare lucrative contracts once UN sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait are lifted. The sanctions include an oil embargo.

Al-Jumhuriyah said France had "interests in the region [which] require that its relations with Iraq, which have been harmed by its support for the Western stand, are rejuvenated."

Although a leading contributor to the Gulf War coalition against Iraq, France has supported Baghdad since it began complying with UN resolutions.

The US already has an interest section in Baghdad.