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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 21:47 GMT 22:47 UK
Iraqi Kurds cement new partnership
Jalal Talabani (L) and Massoud Barzani at a previous meeting. Photo: KurdSat TV
Barzani (R) had not visited Talabani's region since 1994
The leaders of northern Iraq's two main factions made a show of unity on Wednesday ahead of the revival of a regional Kurdish parliament for their Western-protected enclave.

Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party met Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the town of Dukan.

Kurdistan will never be a source of threats to any state

Massoud Barzani

It was the first time Mr Barzani had travelled to his one-time rival's home base since the two groups began a four-year conflict in 1994.

The two sides, which control areas beyond the reach of Baghdad, have been increasing their co-operation while the US looks to a possible attack on Iraq.

New agreements

On Wednesday they sought to reassure regional neighbours - especially Turkey, which has a large Kurdish area - that their unity was not a "threat".

"Kurdistan will never be a source of threats to any state," Mr Barzani said.

Kurdish fighters
The fighting between Kurds reached its peak in 1996

Turkey fears that a US attack on Iraq which sought to topple Saddam Hussein could unleash calls for independence from Turkey's Kurds, against whom Ankara fought a 15-year war.

The two Kurdish leaders also signed agreements to normalise relations by reopening each party's offices in areas controlled by the other, restoring property seized during fighting and making it easier for Kurds to move between the two areas and releasing prisoners.

On Friday, a Kurdish regional parliament convenes for the first time in six years in the city of Irbil, which is held by Mr Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party.

'Bloody fighting'

The two factions have previously agreed to a draft constitution designed for a future federal republic of Iraq, which is to be presented to the parliament.

They have also drafted a constitution for the Kurdish-held area, which they have run without Baghdad thanks to the US- and British-enforced "no-fly" zone over northern Iraq, put in place after the Gulf War ended in 1991.

On Wednesday, the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, dismissed any talk of a Kurdish state.

"A Kurdish state? No," Mr Aziz said.

"I think that the Kurdish people in Iraq are against separation. And those who are speaking about separation are not serving Iraq nor serving the Kurdish people, they are serving the United States and Israel."

He also warned the US against making alliances with Kurdish forces in an attack on Iraq.

"If the United States attempts to occupy northern Iraq, there will be a very bloody fighting, and its price would be very heavy," Mr Aziz, who was visiting Turkey, said.


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10 Sep 02 | Middle East
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