France (search) and Iraq (search) have restored diplomatic relations that were severed 13 years ago during the Gulf War and they plan to exchange ambassadors as soon as possible, the French Foreign Ministry (search) said Monday.

"The two governments are convinced this decision will contribute to closer ties between France and Iraq and will intensify exchanges to the greater benefit of the two countries," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Bernard Bajolet is now France's highest diplomatic representative in Iraq, and has been in discussions with Iraqi officials about restoration of ties that Saddam Hussein broke off in 1991.

Paris and Baghdad wish "to promote and to reinforce the friendly and cooperative ties between the two countries and the two peoples, on the basis of mutual respect for their sovereignty," the ministry's statement said.

France opposed the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam last year and has turned down American requests for military help in quelling an insurgency that threatens the interim Iraqi government.

However, France has said it is willing to help train Iraqi security forces and also supports limited forgiveness of Iraqi debt to help the country regain its economic footing.

At a summit earlier this month in Istanbul, Turkey, NATO leaders offered military training to the new Iraqi government. But, France and Germany rejected the U.S. notion that an alliance training mission could develop into a NATO presence in Iraq.

The Foreign Ministry's statement said the renewal of ties took effect immediately and that ambassadors would be exchanged "as soon as possible."