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Middle East

Hollande predicts year of victories against terror on Iraq visit

media French President François Hollande in Baghdad Reuters/Christophe Ena

French President François Hollande predicted "a year of victories against terrorism" on a visit to Baghdad on Monday. Addressing French troops training an elite Iraqi anti-terror unit, he said that the fight in Iraq was a way of preventing terror attacks in France.

2017 will be "a year of victories against terrorism", Hollande told about 40 French military instructors, adding "Action against terrrorism here in Iraq is also a way of preventing terrorist acts on our own soil."

But "victory" is meaningless without the "reconstruction" of Iraq, he went on, saying that this was another condition for preventing "actions by Daesh [the Islamic State armed group, IS] on our own territory".

At least 17 people were killed and several dozen injured by a carbomb driven by a suicide attacker in the Shia-Muslim-majority district of Sadr City in Baghdad during Hollande's visit.

Only anti-IS head of state to visit Iraq

Hollande, who visited Iraq in September 2014, is the only head of state from a country in the US-led coalition fighting IS to go there.

France's presence in Iraq
  • France is the second-largest participant in the 60-nation coalition after the US.
  • Since it joined in 2014, French aircraft have conducted 5,700 sorties and about 1,000 airstrikes, destroying more than 1,700 targets, according to defence ministry figures.
  • France has 14 Rafale fighters, stationed in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
  • It has 500 soldiers training and advising Iraqi elite forces.
  • French Caesar artillery vehicles are stationed south of Mosul to support the recaptureof the city.
  • French nationals are among the largest contingents of foreigh fighters in IS's ranks.

In Baghdad, he was to meet Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shia, and Speaker of Parliament, Salim al-Juburi, a Sunni.

He was then to go to Erbil, where he was to meet President Fuad Masum, a Kurd.

Erbil is about 60 kilometres from Mosul, which Iraqi forces backed by international coalition air power and artillery are fighting to recapture from IS.

The presidential plane was carrying 38 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including five tonnes of medical supplies, for some of the 10 million people needing aid in Iraq.

French opposition calls for talks with Putin

France is "totally offside" when it comes to the battle with IS in Syria, the right-wing presidential candidate François Fillon's spokesman said on Monday.

"As soon as the Russians and the Turks, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, begin to come to agreement on political solutions in Syria, that means that we are totally offside," Republicans MP Benoist Apparu declared.

Russia has been subject to European sanctions since it took Crimea from Ukraine but refusing to talk to Putin is "untenable", Apparu said.

"It is Putin who has had the keys to Syria and the war on the ground against the Islamic State for the last three years," he claimed, describing the demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad quit as a condition for negotiations as "morally interesting but useless on the ground".

Turkish artillery and fighter planes attacked IS targets, killing 22 fighters, in Al Bab on Monday, the Turkish military announced, while Russia said it had bombed targets south-west of the IS-held town.

French aircraft on Monday bombed the Syrian city of Palmyra, recently recaptured by IS, Hollande announced during his Baghdad visit.

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