NAJAF, Iraq: France´s top diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian met with a leading cleric in Iraq´s Najaf on Tuesday, the first time a French foreign minister has visited the holy city.
The visit to the revered southern city capped Le Drian´s packed two-day trip to Iraq, during which he announced new support for the country´s reconstruction efforts. France would issue a new one-billion-euro ($1.1 billion) loan over the next four years to help Iraq rebuild after the gruelling fight against the Islamic State group, he said. "French businesses are absolutely available to contribute to Iraq´s reconstruction," Le Drian said. Iraq´s economy was ravaged after IS seized swathes of the country in 2014, prompting many foreign firms to pull out. Paris granted Baghdad a 430-million-euro ($512-million) loan in 2017 to help implement reforms and improve public services, whose dire state sparked protests last summer.