President Saddam Hussein has offered a fresh dialogue to Kurds living in areas of northern Iraq outside the control of Baghdad, official media reported Thursday.
"The important thing is dialogue," Saddam reportedly told loyalist Kurdish leader Fuad Aref. "The Kurdish people are our people and he who tries to sow disunity (between Iraqis) must be criticized."
"We want the Kurdish people to make a choice and to stick by that choice," Saddam added, without elaboration.
Two weeks ago he warned Kurds of a resort to force if dialogue could not be established.
"Wisdom must be the foundation of any dialogue to resolve problems between people," Saddam said. "But if wisdom is unable to achieve dialogue ... the Iraqi sword should be used to recover rights.
"We are not incapable of using arms," he added.
Saddam was taking aim at Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), for refusing Baghdad's overtures.
Iraqi Kurdistan rose up against the regime in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait, leaving the three provinces of Arbil, Suleimaniyeh and Dahuk outside Baghdad's reach.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Masood Barzani today controls an area along the Turkish border, while the rival PUK administers areas close to the Iranian border.
On July 15, Saddam called for the Kurdish factions, which the United States has tried to bring together, to engage in dialogue to find an equitable solution to the Kurdish problem – Baghdad (AFP)
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