Iraqi Kurdish Leader Calls for Democratic Change In Iraq
On Tuesday, a leading Iraqi Kurdish leader called for a democratic change of regime in Iraq involving forces within the country instead of a military intervention from outside.
"We are for fundamental democratic change in Iraq with Iraqi democratic and progressive forces," Jalal Talabani, who heads the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), told reporters after discussions with Turkish foreign ministry officials in Ankara.
"If these Iraqi democratic forces will be supported from the outside, it is welcome," the PUK leader added, but stressed that his faction was opposed to "foreign interference in Iraq".
Talabani's comments came at a time of heightened fears that Baghdad could possibly be the next target of the US-led global war on terror, for its continual resistance to allow UN weapons inspectors to return.
Asked about a possible military strike against Iraq, the PUK leader said, "We prefer a democratic change in Iraq."
The United States, Iraq's arch-enemy, has made it clear that it wants to get rid of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and has tried to unite the Iraqi opposition for this purpose, however, with little success.
Talabani restated his concerns that overthrowing Saddam Hussein without a sound alternative to replace him was not a plan he favored, according to AFP.
"If I meet American friends, I will tell them that we want to know what is the future of Iraq. If the plan is to replace our old dictator with a new one, then we are not supporting it," he told reporters.
Meanwhile, his viewpoints are also shared by another Iraqi Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), who, along with Talabani, has controlled much of the northern part of Iraq since it has been outside Baghdad's control following the Gulf war in 1991.
In an interview with Turkish television last month, Barzani said the most significant question in the plan to oust the Iraqi leader was who would replace him and the uncertainty that the new ruler would be better than Saddam.
Talabani also emphasized his allegiance to Iraq's territorial integrity, trying to allay Turkish fears over an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq.
"There is no desire or attempt for the division of Iraq," the PUK leader conveyed.
"We are for strengthening the unity of Iraq for protecting and defending Iraq's national unity and achieving a democratic fundamental change in Iraq and having a democratic united Iraq," he added.
Turkey, a key Muslim ally of Washington in the campaign against terrorism, is opposed to a strike against Iraq, fearing that regional turmoil could result in the break-up of Iraq and subsequently in the establishment of a Kurdish state in the northern area of Iraq.
Such a state could fan separatist sentiment in neighboring southeast Turkey, where a 15-year Kurdish rebellion has just recently subdued.
Turkey has recently called on Saddam to permit UN weapons inspections to resume, but they have led to no change in Baghdad's position on the matter. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)