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French president arrives on first trip to Iraq

world Updated: Feb 10, 2009 15:48 IST

French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived on Tuesday in Baghdad on his first trip to Iraq, a major step in his efforts to rebuild ties with Iraq and end any lingering US-French animosity over the 2003 Iraq invasion.

The French leader was received by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in a welcoming ceremony shown on state television.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner made the first trip by a senior French official to the country on Aug 20, 2007. Kouchner said at the time that Paris wanted to "turn the page" and look to the future. He also traveled to Iraq in June.

Sarkozy, nicknamed "Sarko l'Americain" for his admiration and support of the United States, has been seeking to re-establish ties with Iraq and shore up ties to Washington that were deeply strained by his predecessor's opposition to the war.

Then-President Jacques Chirac's refusal to back the US-led military effort in Iraq led to a new low in France-US ties. France was vilified in US public opinion, with some Americans boycotting French wines, and french fries taking on the name "freedom fries" in the House of Representatives cafeteria.

The visit also comes as the President Barack Obama is seeking to bolster support for the military effort in Afghanistan even as the United States begins to draw down forces in Iraq.