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As war ebbs, Europe returns to Iraq

France and Germany opposed the US-led invasion but are now eyeing new investments in the war-torn country.

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Heading to Iraq: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, put on a flak jacket in the Amman, Jordan, airport on Feb. 17 before flying into Iraq.

Thomas Koehler/AP

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President Bush was hardly out of the White House before his European opponents to the invasion of Iraq began lining up for what are expected to be lucrative contracts to rebuild the oil-rich country.

In recent weeks, France and Germany, which Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of Defense, once chided as "Old Europe" for their opposition to the war, spearheaded Europe's forceful return to Baghdad. On separate visits with similar goals, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier swung through Baghdad. Their message was clear: As the danger subsides and the US scales back, Europe should move in quickly with money and know-how to rebuild everything from power stations, water systems, schools, and hospitals to roads and bridges.

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