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    Bernard Quere, the Middle East envoy for the French agricultural agency France Obtention- whose slogan is L'Univers de la pomme de terre - had flown from Paris in November to sell seedlings cultivated by French farmers to Kurdish agriculturalists.

    By testing and marketing varieties such as elodie, frida and universal in this economically and agriculturally underdeveloped region of northern Iraq, he hopes to increase French sales of potato seedlings to Kurdistan from about 800 tonnes. That is about a fifth of the level from before the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

    "Before the war, Iraq in general was a first client of the French seed potatoes,"recalls Mr Quere. "After the war, we lost everything. The market collapsed, and now we want again to go there and develop our business there."