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VOA Interview: Iraq's New President Pledges to Defeat Insurgency


Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, the newly-elected president of Iraq, says the government must now defeat the bloody insurgency and improve security. Mr. Talibani made the comment in an exclusive interview with VOA's Kurdish service.

The official, Jalal Talabani, says the nation will have a new government within the week.

"Our plan is to nominate a prime minister tomorrow [Thursday] and start to form a cabinet. We hope that within one week we will have a new Iraqi government. Our plan is to struggle against terrorism and have security for the country and help draft a democratic constitution as soon as possible," he said.

In the interview, Mr. Talabani said he is hopeful that Sunni Arabs will be active in the new government. Sunnis make up an estimated 20 percent of Iraq's population, but won fewer than 20 seats in parliament because of a boycott of January's elections. Many Sunnis, who were afforded a special place under Saddam Hussein, now feel the new government threatens their way of life, and much of Iraq's insurgency has been centered in Sunni areas.

Iraq's parliament on Wednesday elected Mr. Talabani, a top Kurdish leader, as the country's new president. The parliament also elected two vice presidents, one Sunni Arab and one Shia. The three men form the country's presidential council and are responsible for naming the prime minister, expected to be Shia leader Ibrahim Jaafari. The prime minister will then name a cabinet.

President Talabani said in the interview that until Iraq's security forces are strong enough to stand on their own and defend the country from insurgent attacks, American and coalition forces will remain in the country.

"We think that the coalition forces are needed until we have strong armed forces for Iraq that will be able to eradicate terrorist activities and to prevent foreign interference in the internal affairs of the Iraqi people," he said.

Mr. Talabani said he recognizes the historical importance of having a Kurdish president in Iraq, where ethnic Kurds were long oppressed under Saddam Hussein's regime. He said his election shows that Iraqis are ready for a country where all citizens, regardless of their ethnic origins or religion, are equal under law.

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