03/14/2005, 00.00
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A new Iraq for everyone, says Kurdish envoy

Saywan Barzani is optimistic despite frictions between the Kurdish block and the Shiite alliance over the new government. One major stumbling block is the return of Kurdish deportees to Kirkuk.

Paris (AsiaNews) – Talks and negotiations between Shiites and Kurds are a good sign. They show that dialogue is the way to find a place for all Iraqi communities in the new government.

Saywan Barzani, envoy of the government of Iraq's Kurdish region, is optimistic about the future despite news that the Kurdish block and the Shiite alliance have failed so far to form a new Iraqi government.

"Finding a compromise between the parties will be difficult," he said, "but I am certain that the Constituent Assembly will build a new Iraq for everyone, without any distinctions".

The two sides that won the January 30 elections announced yesterday evening that they could not reach an agreement before the first session of Iraq's new parliament scheduled for this Wednesday. Kurds and Shiites hold a two third majority in the new National Assembly.

Saywan Barzani, nephew of Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, explained that Kirkuk remains the stumbling block.

"We are demanding the government ensure the immediate return of the 100,000 people deported by Saddam's regime and the repatriation of Arab colonists to central and southern Iraq," he said. "Shiite leaders want to wait and have the constitution drafted first".

Iraq's new parliament will meet for the first time on March 16, a day Kurds will never forget, according to Barzani. It was on this day, in 1988, that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the city of Hallabija, killing four to five thousand people.

The Kurds, who are 3 million out of Iraq's 27 million people, want the Presidency to go to their leader, Jalal Talabani; they are also seeking the ministries of Finance, Interior and Defence as well as the incorporation of the city of Kirkuk into the federal region of Kurdistan. For them Kirkuk is their true capital and its immediate region is also the oldest oil-producing area of the country.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, leader of Dawa (a predominantly-Shiite, conservative Islamic party), could become the next Prime Minister.

Barzani said he was convinced that all parties agree at least on one point: federalism. "The future Iraq," he explained, "will be federal and democratic. Fundamentalists will not influence the constitution-making process to force the introduction of Islamic law".

Any frictions or differences of opinion that appear now should not be seen in a negative light, the Kurdish envoy said. "They are proof," he stressed, "of a common will to bring everyone—Shiites, Assyrians, Kurds, Chaldeans, Sunnis, Turkmen— into the new government. It won't be easy, but a new Iraq won't be possible if it doesn't include everyone, minorities as well".

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