Global Policy Forum

Iraq's President Complains of


By Sarah El Deeb

Associated Press
July 10, 2005

Iraqi Kurdish President Jalal Talabani has accused his country's Shiite Muslim prime minister of taking unilateral decisions and violating an agreement between both communities that led to the formation of their coalition government, according to parts of a letter published Sunday. The letter, sent by Talabani to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, also complained of government procrastination to implement a policy to help determine the fate of the hotly contested oil-rich Kirkuk, over which Kurds lay claim.

Kurdish legislator Mahmoud Othman confirmed Talabani sent the letter to al-Jaafari a few weeks ago, but added its contents were "effective" and that relations between both men have improved. The London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat quoted extensively from the letter, but didn't say when it was sent. It also did not publish a copy of the letter.

Shiite and Kurdish powers have become the dominant forces in Iraq after being suppressed for decades under Saddam Hussein, a secular Sunni Muslim, who was ousted following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the country. Shiite and Kurdish politicians struck an alliance after coming first and second in historic Jan. 30 polls to elect a transitional parliament and form a government. But tensions exist between the two groups, particularly over the status of Kurdish paramilitary fighters and the fate of Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

Al-Hayat said Talabani accused al-Jaafari of sidelining the new Iraqi Cabinet, which was announced April 28, especially Kurdish members including a deputy prime minister and turning them into "state ministers without work." "You act as if you alone are the government and limit its authorities to yourself alone," Talabani wrote according to the paper.

One of the initial tasks of al-Jaafari's government was to ensure the return of Kurds who had been displaced by Saddam from Kirkuk and move out Arab families the former dictator had shifted there in a bid change the area's demography. Talabani said the failure to implement the law regarding Kirkuk was a "very serious matter that can't be ignored" by the Kurdish alliance. "Practically speaking (this is) a violation if not a hostile position toward the rights of Kurdish people in Kirkuk," said the president.

Kurdish legislator Othman told The Associated Press that al-Jaafari had agreed last week to implement the related laws calling for the return of Kurds. Iraq's parliament has until Aug. 15 to adopt a draft constitution, which will be put to a nationwide referendum by mid-October. If approved, it will provide the basis for a new election in December.

Last week, Talabani said, there were no disagreements between the presidency council and the council of ministers regarding key issues. Al-Jaafari's office said Talabani visited the prime minister Sunday and the two discussed insurgent attacks and the fate of Kirkuk. In an interview on the Arab network station Al-Arabiya, Nouri Shawis, the Kurdish deputy prime minister, acknowledged there are differences in views within the government. "For sure during the work, implementation and performance we face some differences in points of views," he told the station. "This does not mean there are disputes."

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