France voices solidarity with US over Iraq embassy attack

PARIS: French Defence Minister Florence Parly has condemned the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad by demonstrators and expressed solidarity with France’s coalition partner in a New Year’s address to French troops.
“France strongly condemns the attacks carried out against the positions of the international coalition in Iraq and today’s attempted incursion into the US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Parly told the crew of the French frigate Courbet with whom she rang in the New Year.
In the speech, the text of which was only made public on Wednesday, she also expressed “full solidarity” with the US.
Thousands of Iraqi supporters of the Hashed al Shaabi paramilitary force marched on the US embassy on Tuesday furious over the deaths of 25 fighters members in US air strikes.
They set a security post on fire, breached one of the
compound’s outer walls and threw rocks but were repelled by US troops who used tear gas to defend the building.
On Wednesday, hundreds of demonstrators remained outside the embassy, despite orders from the Hashed al Shaabi fighters for an end to the sit-in.
US President Donald Trump tweeted that Iran would pay a “very big price” for any lives lost or damage caused.
Meanwhile, demonstrators left the besieged US embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday after the paramilitary force ordered them to withdraw a day after their dramatic incursion.
They marched unimpeded through the checkpoints of the usually high-security Green Zone to the embassy gates, where they broke through a reception area, chanting and spraying graffiti on the walls.
Iraq’s caretaker premier Adel Abdel Mahdi called on the angry crowd to leave the embassy but most spent the night in dozens of tents set up outside the perimeter wall.
On Wednesday morning, crowds of men brandished the Hashed’s colours, torched US flags and hurled rocks towards the compound.
Security personnel inside responded with tear gas,
wounding at least 20 people, the Hashed said.
By the afternoon, the Hashed called on its supporters to leave the embassy and regroup outside the Green Zone “out of respect for the state.”
“You delivered your message,” it said in a statement. AFP’s photographer saw protesters dismantling their tents and leaving the Green Zone.
“We burned them!” they said, streaming back out of checkpoints they had breezed through on Tuesday.
Kataeb Hizbullah, the group targeted in the US raids, initially said it would stay at the embassy.
But the group’s spokesman Mohammad Mohyeddin later said it had decided to abide by the Hashed’s order.
“We scored a huge win: we arrived to the US embassy, which no one had done before,” he said. — AFP