German foreign minister pledges to help Iraq rebuild
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle pledged Saturday to help Iraq rebuild and called on the political leadership to speed up the process of forming a new government, dpa reported.
Westerwelle met Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi during a lightning six-hour visit to the Iraqi capital.
The foreign minister offered Iraq the "closest of partnerships with Germany," which is eyeing trade and business deals with the new administration once it is in place - possibly by the end of December.
An investment protection agreement was signed during Westerwelle's visit, which was not announced in advance due to security concerns. Around 13 people died in bomb blast in the Iraqi capital Saturday.
Westerwelle, who headed a business delegation, called on the Iraqi parties to work on the democratic process.
"We want to send a signal of support for political stabilisation of Iraq," he said. "Now is the right time to do that."
Westerwelle is the first European foreign minister to visit Iraq since the March 7 parliamentary elections.
Last month, al-Maliki was assigned the task of forming a new government to be comprised of groups which spent eight months reaching an agreement on how to allocate the country's leadership positions.
Maliki told Westerwelle that Iraqis wanted to see greater involvement by German firms in Iraq. German investors doing business in Iraq said some projects were making only slow progress because of the security situation.
Germany, once one of Iraq's major trading partners, exported goods worth 690 million euros (920 million dollars) in the first nine months of this year, almost 300 million euros more than in the same period of 2009.
Plans are already being made for German Economics Minister Rainer Bruederle and Development Minister Dirk Niebel to travel to the Iraqi capital early next year.