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Monday, 13 January, 2003, 17:21 GMT
Profile: Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
Under the command of the veteran Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, the PUK has created militia forces and a party organisation to rival the traditionally dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The PUK was founded in June 1975 by Talabani and others, formerly members of the KDP.

The PUK now claims to be a modern, social-democratic party with a membership of nearly 150,000.

The party's web site says that the PUK was founded in order to "rebuild and redirect Kurdish society along modern and democratic lines".


After the expulsion of Iraqi troops from Kuwait in March 1991, the PUK played a leading role in the unsuccessful uprising launched by the Kurdish factions in the north and the underground Shia groups in southern Iraq. PUK broadcasts said that the rebels had seized control of a number of important towns.

The Kurdish victories were short-lived. Iraqi troops crushed the rebellion and millions of Kurds fled across the mountainous border into Turkey.

Jalal Talabani: PUK secretary-general
Dr Barham Salih: Prime minister of the PUK-led Kurdish regional government
Kosrat Rasul Ali: Head of PUK Political Bureau

PUK and KDP leaders began negotiations with the Iraqi Government in April 1991.

Democratic process

In elections held across Iraqi Kurdistan in May 1992, the PUK won 49.2% of the votes, and reached an agreement with the KDP to share power on a 50-50 basis.

Since 1996, a PUK-led government has claimed jurisdiction over the whole of Iraqi Kurdistan, although PUK forces are concentrated around the town of Sulaymaniyah near the Iranian border.

The division of Kurdistan into PUK and KDP zones followed a bitter civil war, in which the KDP was supported for a time by the Iraqi central government and the PUK enjoyed Iranian backing.

PUK forces succeeded in pushing back the KDP advance and in October 1996 won back the party's stronghold of Sulaymaniyah from KDP forces.

Slow path to peace

The Washington Agreement, signed under US auspices in 1998, set the two parties off on a very slow road to peace.

But relations with the KDP improved significantly in 2002. Barham Salih, the head of the PUK's regional Kurdish government, told Kurdish reporters in May that the KDP and PUK had agreed to work towards merging the two administrations.

And on 4 October 2002 PUK representatives took their seats in the Kurdish parliament in Irbil for the first time since the civil war of 1994.

Jalal Talabani welcomed calls for "regime change" in Iraq, while distancing the PUK from US plans to invade. He told the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat in October that the PUK was "not willing to be a Trojan horse" for US troops. He added: "We do not want the American forces to invade. We want them to back the opposition if they intervene."

Despite these misgivings, senior PUK officials - including Mr Talabani - participated in meetings organised by US officials in August and December 2002, at which Iraqi opposition leaders discussed the future of Iraq.

Party structure:

According to the PUK's website, the party's decision-making body is an elected Leadership Council of 32 members. The Leadership Council elects the secretary-general and an 11 member Political Bureau, which is in charge of the day-to-day management of the organisation.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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13 Jan 03 | Media reports
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