PARIS – Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Tuesday his country needs more help from France as it tries to rebuild in the face of continued violence.
Talabani is on a four-day state visit to France billed as a sign that his war-battered country is rebuilding international ties ahead of the departure of U.S. forces by the end of 2011.
France, which led international opposition to the Iraq war, is looking to enhance ties — notably economic.
"Iraq today extends the hand of friendship," Talabani told hundreds of dignitaries and other invited guests in an ornate and mirrored banquet room at Paris City Hall.
"Iraq wants to cooperate with France, and aspires to get more help for the Iraqi people from France," he said, adding that Iraq is looking to retrieve its rightful place in the community of nations.
The Iraqi people "continue to face challenges and dangers, and, indeed, we still suffer from terrorism," Talabani said.
Violence has dropped sharply in Iraq over the past year, but Iraqi politicians and security officials have warned in recent weeks of a possible spike in violence in the run-up to the country's national polls as insurgents look to undermine the government and destabilize the country.
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe expressed sympathy for the plight of Iraqis and referred to France's vocal opposition to the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003.
French solidarity for the Iraqi people is "profound and deep," Delanoe said. "Our country, you know, never hesitated to affirm its positions in hopes of sparing its friend from useless suffering."
Talabani used the second day of his state visit to praise Delanoe's city, saying it is for many in the Middle East "a sort of Mecca where our gaze has turned."
The Iraqi leader laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe. He was also meeting with Prime Minister Francois Fillon and French business leaders during his stay.
Iraq's foreign and defense ministers traveling in Talabani's delegation signed accords Monday on economic, cultural and defense affairs with their French counterparts.