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 Iraq's Kurdistan president says Iraq-US security pact dominates his talks with Rice 

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Iraq's Kurdistan president says Iraq-US security pact dominates his talks with Rice  29.10.2008

October 29, 2008

WASHINGTON,— President of Iraq’s Kurdistan region Massoud Barzani, said his talks on Tuesday with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice focused on a controversial draft Iraq-US military pact.

"The issue of the strategic agreement was the main theme of the meeting," Barzani told reporters following his talks with Rice in Washington, adding it was "discussed in detail."

However, Barzani said he had no details about proposed changes to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that is designed to lay out the rights and responsibilities of US forces in Iraq after a UN mandate expires at the end of the year.                  

Massoud Barzani, the President of the autonomous Regional Government of Kurdistan 'Iraq'

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
"I'm not aware of the latest amendments because I was traveling during the meeting," he added.

The Iraqi cabinet on Tuesday authorised Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to negotiate changes in the security pact.

The cabinet last week decided to seek changes to the deal, the latest draft of which stipulates that American forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 2009 and from the country by December 2011.

The draft also offers powers to the Iraqis to prosecute American soldiers and civilians for "serious crimes" committed outside their bases and when off-duty.

On Tuesday, the White House poured cold water on Iraq's push to reopen talks on the accord, with spokeswoman Dana Perino saying, "the door is pretty much shut on these negotiations."

Barzani said he and Rice also discussed the situation involving Iraq, the Kurds and Turkey.

Turkish troops have stepped up operations against the Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels -- both inside Turkey and in Kurdistan region 'northern Iraq', since October 3.

Ankara has often accused the Iraqi Kurds, who run an autonomous Kurdish administration led by Barzani in the region, of tolerating and even aiding the PKK, but has said it will still pursue talks with them to resolve the problem. Kurdish authorities in Kurdistan region strongly reject the claim.

"We discussed the positive developments that we see in the interests of both sides," Barzani said without elaborating.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said last week that Ankara was considering a proposal by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani for three-way talks with Baghdad and Washington to outline fresh measures to purge the PKK bases in northern Iraq.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Barzani and Rice also discussed how oil producing regions in Iraq, such as Kurdistan, could share Iraq's oil revenue, a move that has been blocked by Iraqi lawmakers for almost a year.

There is a need for Barzani "to work with the government of Iraq, within the constitutional framework, to end the stalemate in parliament on proposed hydrocarbon legislation," Wood said.

The pair also talked about the Kurdish government's support for representation for minorities in upcoming provincinal election, he said.

Since 1984 when the Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) took up arms for self-rule in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan). A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country's Kurdish areas,
the party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms.

The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union,
but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

Copyright, respective author or news agency, AFP | Agencies


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