Wed, Aug 31, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Iraq's president and PM bicker over trip to UN


A tiff has erupted between Iraq's Kurdish president and Shiite prime minister over who will head Iraq's delegation to the annual UN summit next month, Iraqi officials from both camps say.

The four officials said President Jalal Talabani was displeased by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's insistence that he should lead the country's delegation at the General Assembly session in New York and a meeting with US President George W. Bush.

None of the four would allow their names to be published because the issue is sensitive at a time when the Shiites and Kurds are trying to maintain unity to promote the new constitution in the Oct. 15 referendum.

According to all four officials, the dispute began when Talabani sent a letter to al-Jaafari declaring that as Iraq's titular head of state, he would be representing the country at the annual UN session.

Al-Jaafari replied by saying that since he runs the government, he should head the delegation; the prime minister suggested that both he and Talabani could deliver General Assembly speeches but the president refused.

On Saturday, Talabani's spokesman, Kamran Qaradaghi, issued a statement saying the president will deliver two speeches at the UN summit on Sept. 15 and Sept. 17. He said that Talabani will be heading a high-level delegation that will meet Bush and other senior officials earlier next month.

A Shiite politician, who also refused to be identified, said al-Jaafari decided that unless he could make a speech too, he would stay home.

Under Iraq's interim constitution, Talabani leads a three-member council that serves collectively as a head of state.

But al-Jaafari runs the government, similar to Germany which has a president with few powers and a chancellor who governs.

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