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Iraqi President Wants Nuclear Weapons-Free Mideast

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani says his country wants a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and that an economic development plan initiated earlier this year aims to create about four million jobs in his country.

Mr. Talabani told delegates at the United Nations General Assembly Thursday that Iraq is calling for all states in the region that have not yet joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to do so and comply with its provisions.

Regarding Iran's nuclear program, he said Iraq believes in the right of states to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and advocated "dialogue and diplomacy" as the most effective means to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff.

The Iraqi president said a $186 billion, five-year development plan that started in April will help boost Iraq's economy and aid the return of Iraqi refugees. He urged Iraqis who fled abroad during and after the U.S. led invasion to return, emphasizing that women have assumed increasingly important positions throughout Iraqi society.

Mr. Talabani said the ongoing political process since the collapse of former leader Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003 has resulted in radical and positive change in Iraq.

He said one of the most important issues facing the country is the ongoing "burden" of U.N. Resolution 661 which imposed sanctions against Iraq after Saddam's 1990 invasion of neighboring Kuwait. Mr. Talabani called on U.N. members to repeal the resolution and pledged that Iraq's newly-elected government will work with Kuwait to settle all outstanding claims.

The Iraqi president said he hopes the new government will be formed "as soon as possible," noting that the country's security situation is much improved, paving the way for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq last month.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.