Drawing sharp criticism from the United States and Britain, France received a senior Iraqi official Friday for the first time since the Persian Gulf war of 1991 and agreed to open a diplomatic office in Baghdad soon.
In separate statements, the United States and Britain said that they had not been consulted about the French moves and that the moment was not ripe for easing international pressure on Iraq to comply fully with Security Council resolutions.
The visit by the Iraqi official, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, brought no sweeping breakthrough in Iraq’s campaign to end its isolation and obtain a relaxation of U.N. sanctions, including a punishing oil-trade embargo, that have shriveled the Iraqi economy.
After a breakfast meeting with Aziz, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told reporters that France continued to insist that Iraq comply fully with all Security Council resolutions. “Some progress has been made over the past months,” he said. “More remains to be done.”