Sunday, November 20, 2005

Talabani offers talks with insurgents

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani has said he is willing to speak to insurgents if they want to talk to him. Addressing a national reconciliation conference in Cairo, he said he was "responsible for all Iraqis" and wanted to "listen... even to criminals".

But he said Saddam Hussein supporters and religious extremists had no role in the country's political process.

There have been reports of contacts between insurgents and the Iraqi government, which have been denied. Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, said in June the US government regularly facilitated contacts between the Iraqi government and insurgents. Mr Talabani immediately denied it. "The Iraqi government has nothing to do with the negotiations with insurgents," he said at the time.

It was not immediately clear exactly what he was offering at the Arab League-sponsored conference on Sunday.

"If those who describe themselves as the Iraqi resistance want to contact me, they are welcome," he said. "I am committed to listen to them, even those who are criminals and on trial.But of course that does not mean I will accept what they say," the president told a news conference.

Government leaders have previously said they would talk to opposition forces who were willing to lay down their arms - but not those who are responsible for killing Iraqis.

There have been unconfirmed reports that Mr Talabani has met with representatives of the opposition during the conference in Cairo.

There is pressure from within Iraq and from the west to try to strike a deal that would ease, if not end, the violence in Iraq, the BBC's Ian Pannell in Cairo says.

Source BBC


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