Tue, Aug 10, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Kurdish leader visits Taiwan for talks on mutual cooperation

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Prime Minister of the Kurdish Regional Government in Irbil, Nechervan Barzani, arrived in Taiwan on Sunday to conduct talks with government officials about how the two countries can cooperate in reconstructing post-war Kurdistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

Barzani and his delegation will stay in Taiwan until tomorrow. Barzani, visiting Taiwan for the first time, will be meeting Premier Yu Shyi-kun and top-ranking officials from MOFA, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Education and the Council of Agriculture.

"The main purpose of the visit is to boost bilateral trade, cultural exchange and agricultural cooperation. Reconstruction works are urgently needed in post-war Iraq, including Kurdistan," MOFA said in a press release.

"The Kurds, though having sufficient funding for their reconstruction projects, lack related technique and knowledge in carrying out the plans. They wish to learn from our experiences," the statement said.

Victor Tseng (曾慶源), director general of MOFA's Department of West Asian Affairs, said Barzani is here by the ministry's invitation.

"It is a good opportunity for us to get to know Barzani, who is the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party and a member of the Iraqi Governing Council," Tseng said.

Barzani's delegation of trade officials is eager to establish trade opportunities with Taiwan. It is particularly interested in Taiwan's information technology industry, Tseng said.

Kurdistan is rich in oil and talks on how to develop the region's oil fields with Taiwan are also on the delegation's agenda, he said.

The delegation will visit the state-owned Chinese Petroleum Corp and the Taiwan External Trade Development Council during their stay in Taipei, according to the ministry.

Asked whether the government will seek official ties with post-Saddam Iraq or Kurdistan, Tseng said that both sides' cooperation focuses on reconstruction works.

After the Iraq war broke out in March last year, MOFA and 19 NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in Taiwan raised around NT$32 million for the country's refugees in May last year and donated the money to an American foundation doing humanitarian work in Iraq.

Barzani, a grandson of KDP founder Mustafa Barzani, was born in 1966 in Iraqi Kurdistan. In 1974, his family was forced into exile in Iran. He often accompanied his late father, Idris Barzani, on official visits to Middle Eastern and European countries.

In 1984, he enrolled at the University of Teheran to study political science, but withdrew three years later following the sudden death of his father and took up an active role in Kurdish politics, in youth organizations.

Barzani was elected to the KDP central committee at its 10th Congress in 1989 and re-elected at the 11th Congress in 1993, when he assumed a position in the political bureau.

After the 1991 Gulf War, he participated in negotiations with the Iraqi government. In 1996, he was appointed deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Irbil, and in 1999 became prime minister.

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