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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 14:58 GMT
Iraqi Kurds cautious on new US war
Massoud Barzani
Kurds have been in control of northern Iraq since 1991

The leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, has said the question of whether the Kurds will support an American strike against Iraq or not "is not a simple one".

"We need many answers before we are able to answer such a question," he added.

Is it going to be an attack for the sake of attacking? Is there an alternative?

Massoud Barzani
Mr Barzani told the Kurdish regional parliament in Irbil on Monday that many changes had taken place in the world since 11 September and that "our region is expected to witness big events".

His remarks come amid increasing speculation that the US-led "war on terror" is going to extend to Iraq.

If this happens, the Kurdish region will have a key role to play, as it could become a base for attacks against Baghdad.

So far, the Kurds have been wary of stating any position for fear of provoking reprisals by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Kurds and Iraqis

Before taking any steps, the Kurds - who have been in control of their area since 1991 - seem to be demanding answers to a number of questions.

We are asking for the rights of the Kurds, which can be realised in a federal solution for Iraq

Massoud Barzani
"Is it going to be an attack for the sake of attacking? Is there an alternative? Is there a plan for that?" Mr Barzani asked.

He said they would not take any decisions that might have negative consequences for the Iraqi people.

"As far as we are concerned, it is very important for us to safeguard and improve this [Kurdish] experience," said the KDP leader.

"We hold the same position towards the Iraqi people. We will not hesitate to protect them from any harm. It is our duty to do so."

Mr Barzani's rival, Jalal Talabani
Rival Kurdish factions signed a ceasefire in 1998 after protracted fighting

He ruled out any scenario in which Iraq might disintegrate into a number of power centres in the event of an attack.

Mr Barzani said: "I think this analysis is very wrong. Neither we nor the Iraqi people will accept that or accept the mandate of any country."

Federal state

Turkish officials have said in the past that if the US attacks Iraq, the Kurds in the north will establish a state of their own - which Turkey would consider an "act of war".

Since 1992, Iraqi Kurds have been asking for a relationship with Baghdad that would be based on federalism.

"We have not asked for the establishment of a Kurdish state," Mr Barzani said.

"This does not mean that it is not our right to do so, but we know that it is not realistic, and we do not have the power to do so.

"We are asking for the rights of the Kurds, which can be realised in a federal solution for Iraq, as declared by our parliament in 1992."

Mr Barzani's KDP shared power in northern Iraq with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan until 1994.

The two parties began a protracted armed conflict that lasted until September 1998, when a ceasefire was announced and they signed an agreement in Washington.

See also:

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