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Iraq - France

French airline to fly direct to Baghdad

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French airline Aigle Azur will launch its direct service from Paris to Baghdad on Saturday when it transports top French business leaders to an international fair in the Iraqi capital. Commercial flights between the two cities, previously operated by national carrier Air France, were suspended after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

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Aigle Azur plans to run twice-weekly flights from Charles de Gaulle airport by early next year but French Minister of State for Foreign Trade Anne-Marie Idrac will be on tomorrow’s inaugural flight. About 40 French businesspeople will also be on board for a journey that will take five hours.

"This is an historic event because this is the first scheduled direct service by a European airline between a western capital and Baghdad for 20 years," said France's ambassador to Iraq Boris Boillon.

France doubled its exports to Iraq in 2009 to 413 million euros but that figure remains low given the estimated 600 billion dollar (433 million euro) cost of the country's reconstruction.

"It's unthinkable for French businesses not to take part in the reconstruction of Iraq," said Idrac, who will sign trade agreements on agriculture and investment protection while in Baghdad.

Pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis will sign a deal to supply Iraq with medicine and to help develop its medical sector.

Eurocopter, a subsidiary of aerospace giant EADS, will sign a 20-million-euro deal with the Iraqi agriculture ministry to buy seven Squirrel helicopters.

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