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Iraq's President Talks To Radio Free Iraq

Prague 6 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported comments made by newly elected transitional President Jalal Talabani to reporters at the Baghdad Conference Palace following his election today.

Asked what it means to him to be president of Iraq, Talabani said: "It presents for me a national mandate from the Iraqis to carry out a national duty for a democratic, federal, independent, united, and developed Iraq. And it's a big honor for the Arab and Kurdish liberal movements who struggled [against Saddam Hussein]."

Asked about the program to be carried out by the transitional government, he told reporters: "Tomorrow, the new government will be sworn in. After that, Mr. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari will be asked to form the government and he will try his utmost with the lists [of candidates] who won the election as well as other political figures from outside those lists to reach a suitable government that will be accepted by all."

Concerning Iraq's relations with its neighbors, Talabani said: "We will carry out dialogues and negotiations with neighboring states to stop supporting the criminal terrorist gangs that work under the name of resistance. Also, [we will ask them] not to interfere in Iraq's internal issues.

Talabani criticized terrorists for their so-called resistance, saying: "There is no resistance. There are criminal gangs killing women and children, and there are other gangs belonging to Al-Qaeda and [Abu Mus'ab] al-Zarqawi. This is not a resistance. This word 'resistance' distorts the real meaning of resistance. But the Iraqis who are bearing guns for a national motive to stand against the foreign forces [multinational forces] are our brothers and those people are the ones with whom we can negotiate and reach a solution.

"That means there is a line between the terrorists and criminals who are in a relation with foreigners and between the Iraqis who think or thought that this military campaign is good for Iraq."

Asked about the Kurdish peshmerga forces, Talabani said: "The peshmerga forces struggled to liberate Iraq and to reach the day that we all could meet together in a democratic Baghdad. So, the peshmerga are the forces for the Iraqi people and the peshmerga liberated a part of Iraq and sheltered all the Iraqis who escaped from the dictatorial regime and this liberated part was a safe haven for all the Iraqi political groups."

Speaking about Arab Sunni participation in the transitional government, he said: "Yes, we have a program especially for the Arab Sunni brothers who should have their position in the government and all their rights. And even we the Kurds. But don't forget that we Kurds are also Sunni and we will defend our Arab Sunni brothers to have all their rights -- completely. God willing, the Iraqis are one belt. The Kurds and Arabs are one belt. Long live Iraq."

(Translated by Diar Bamrni/Kathleen Ridolfo/Nazim Yassin)

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