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Iraqi Politicians Negotiate Composition of New Government


Iraqi Kurdish leaders are meeting in Baghdad with majority Shi'ites, as both sides press for agreement on a new coalition government before parliament meets for the first time Wednesday.

Top Kurdish envoy Qubad Talabani says Kurdish negotiators want the majority Shi'ites to detail their religious and political agenda for northern Iraq before Kurds agree to form a ruling coalition.

Speaking Monday on U.S. television, Mr. Talabani said Kurds want guarantees of a secular government in post-war Iraq. He also said negotiators seek guarantees that hundreds of thousands of Kurds driven from the oil city of Kirkuk under Saddam Hussein be allowed to return.

Earlier Monday, the envoy's father, Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, said Kurds also demand that thousands of Kurdish peshmerga fighters continue to provide security in Kurdish-dominated northern provinces. Jalal Talabani is expected to become Iraq's next president.

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