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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Iraqi Kurds on regional charm tour
US jet at take-off
Many believe the US will attack Iraq sooner or later

Despite Baghdad's back-down over the issue of arms inspections, contacts have been going on in the region on the assumption that the United States will, sooner or later, go ahead with their plans for regime change in Iraq.

A senior delegation of Iraqi Kurds - from the Kurdish Democratic Party - has spent 10 days in talks with Iranian leaders across the political and security spectrum.

Saddam Hussein
Iraqi Kurds say Iran would be happy to see Saddam go

Delegation sources said they had assured Iran that any future regime which might emerge in Baghdad - and in which the Kurds would expect to play a major role - would not be hostile to Tehran, where there are fears that Iran might be next on the list for American attentions.

The Kurds believe that Iraq is approaching what they call its moment of truth.

And also that the attitude of Iraq's neighbours will be a vital factor in future events.

The Iranians know that the KDP - which is one of the two main Kurdish factions currently running their own affairs in Northern Iraq - with Western air protection, is liaising closely with the Americans as well as with other Iraqi opposition groups.

No Kurdish state

The Kurds have also been reassuring their Iranian hosts that there is no secret agenda for the establishment of an independent Kurdish state.

This is an issue of great concern in Tehran, but also to Turkey and Syria. All three have substantial Kurdish minorities.

Iran's official position disapproves of any unilateral American action to remove Saddam Hussein.

But the Kurds believe Tehran would be quietly delighted to see him go, and would not stand in the way of Iraqi opposition groups working to that end.

The Kurdish delegation also held talks with the Iran-based Iraqi Shia opposition group, the Supreme Council, headed by Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim.

The group is influential in southern Iraq.

The two sides agreed to co-ordinate closely.

When the Shia and the Kurds rose up against Saddam after his forces were driven out of Kuwait in 1991 the movements were not synchronised and the Baghdad government was able to quell them separately.

Clearly there is concern to ensure that that does not happen again.


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15 Jul 02 | Middle East
22 Sep 02 | Middle East
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20 Sep 02 | Americas
20 Sep 02 | Hardtalk
20 Sep 02 | Middle East
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