French foreign minister tours Najaf, Iraq's holy Shia city

French foreign minister tours Iraqi holy Shia city, as Paris pledges major reconstruction loan
1 min read
15 January, 2019
France has pledged a $1.1 billion loan to Iraq, as the foreign minister visits the holy city of Najaf.
France's foreign minister has visited Najaf [Getty]
France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian travelled to Iraq on Tuesday, visiting some of the holiest sites in Shia Islam and meeting the country's political leaders.

Le Drian met a leading Shia cleric in the holy city of Najaf, to the south of Baghdad, capping off a two-day trip to Iraq which saw Paris pledge a huge loan to help the country re-build after the punishing war against the Islamic State group.

On Tuesday he visited the tomb of Imam Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed and the founding figure of Shia Islam. 

There he met Iraq's hugely influential Shia clerics, including Ayatollah Mohammad Said al-Hakim and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who made the call for Iraqis to fight IS in 2014, just as the group were moving on Baghdad.

The French foreign minister met Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi and President Barham Saleh in the Iraqi capital, where he pledged $1.1 billion for the government over the next four years to help in rebuilding.

"French businesses are absolutely available to contribute to Iraq's reconstruction," Le Drian said. 

France also provided Iraq with a $512-million loan in 2017, to help it develop infrastructure following anti-government protests over state services.