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Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, Visits Iraq

Guest Lottie

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Guest Lottie

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has arrived in northern Iraq for talks with Kurdish political leaders.

The Foreign Office says the trip is a long-standing visit planned before British engineer Ken Bigley was kidnapped in Iraq.

Mr Straw is likely to discuss the security situation in Iraq after recent attacks on multi-national troops.

The talks will also focus on the elections planned in Iraq in January next year.

Mr Straw has been meeting Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani who head the two main Kurdish political parties in Iraq.

He is expected to visit a number of other key political figures during the course of his stay, although for security reasons his schedule is not being made public

Unresolved future

It is Mr Straw's first visit to northern Iraq - he visited Baghdad and Basra during two visits last year, but this is his first trip since power was handed to the interim Iraqi authority.

The Foreign Office says he wants to see the situation for himself.

A spokesman told BBC News Online: "He will taking the opportunity for discussions on important issues - progress with the political progress and the work on the elections coming up, on how the reconstruction process is going and the general situation on the economy."

It comes after Mr Straw met Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in London earlier this month.

Kurdish leaders have been among the most consistent supporters in Iraq of the US-led coalition.


Their region has enjoyed a high degree of self government but was attacked by Saddam Hussein, especially in the gas strike which killed thousands of people in Halabjah in 1988.

The last time Mr Straw visited Iraq, in November, attacks on US-led forces numbered on average 30 a day. That has now risen to 80.

Although the northern region of Kurdistan is considered relatively peaceful, compared to other parts of Iraq, there is the potential for violence to flare up, says BBC correspondent Karen Allen.

She added that still unresolved is the future of this semi-autonomous region. That should be decided as part of a new constitution to be drawn up by the end of next year.


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You know, although Turkey would go balistic because so many Kurds in South Turkey would want to break away and merge with it, I wonder if they'd be better off making an Independent Kurdistan. It would mean even if Iraq went to pot we'd still have an ally in the North.

Although having a large group in the north supporting us does at least mean part of the population will take the elections seriously huh.gif

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