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German foreign minister in Iraq for trade talks

Germany lines up to get a slice of Iraqi business as the country's foreign minister in Baghdad expresses concern over recent violence.

AFP, Sunday 5 Dec 2010
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German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle made a surprise visit to Baghdad on Saturday and held talks with Iraqi leaders to promote trade and voice concern over attacks against minority Christians.

Westerwelle met Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and parliament Speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi, with talks also focusing on politics as Maliki works to form a cabinet nearly nine months after national elections.

"We want to send a signal that we support the stabilisation of Iraq and the continuation of the democratic process," Westerwelle said, according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry in Berlin earlier Saturday.

Westerwelle hailed a new bilateral pact with Iraq on protecting foreign investment as a good sign, according to a source close to the German delegation, and noted Germany had opened a new economic affairs office in the southern port city of Basra.

After hosting a two-day investment conference for Iraq in November 2009, Berlin has been looking to deepen economic engagement with Baghdad and promote trade between the two countries as Iraq seeks to rebuild its moribund economy and crumbling infrastructure.

Zebari hailed Westerwelle's visit along with members of Germany's Bundestag and a business delegation, saying during their talks that it "sent a signal to other countries," a German source said.

He spoke of the complexity of the situation in Iraq, called for economic engagement alongside political dialogue, and said German companies were welcome in the country.

Westerwelle "expressed great concern over the levels of violence, and in particular a recent wave of violence [against Christians and minorities]," the source said on condition of anonymity.

 

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