Dignitaries gather in Kurd city for Iraq ex-president’s funeral

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, attends a ceremony at the airport in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah following the arrival of Iraqi ex-president Jalal Talabani’s coffin on October 6, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Dignitaries gather in Kurd city for Iraq ex-president’s funeral

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq: Iraqi Kurdish leaders were joined by representatives of the Baghdad government Friday for the funeral of Iraqi ex-president Jalal Talabani, a veteran of the struggle for Kurdish self-rule, an AFP journalist reported.
Talabani died in Germany on Tuesday aged 83, barely a week after an Iraqi Kurdish vote for independence sparked a crisis in the autonomous Kurdish region’s relations with Baghdad.
His body was flown home from Germany to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, his longtime fiefdom, where a red carpet and a guard of honor awaited on the tarmac.
During a decades-long political career, Talabani was a key figure in Iraqi Kurdish politics before becoming Iraq’s first federal president of Kurdish origin from 2005 to 2014.
As Talabani’s widow Hero and sons stepped off the plane, Iraqi Kurdish president Massoud Barzani, a longtime rival, and prime minister Nechirvan Barzani awaited the coffin.
Iraqi President Fuad Massum, also a Kurd, Interior Minister Qassem Al-Araji, a Shiite, and parliament speaker Salim Al-Juburi, a Sunni Arab, represented the Baghdad government.
They were joined by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as well as Kurdish representatives from Iran, Syria and Turkey.
The dignitaries placed wreathes on Talabani’s coffin, which was draped in the red, white, green and yellow colors of the Kurdish flag, as the Iraqi national anthem and then the Kurdish anthem was played.
The coffin was then taken to the city’s grand mosque.
In Sulaimaniyah, Talabani was known affectionately as Mam (Uncle) Jalal.
Earlier this week, Barzani said he had lost “a friend and a brother” and announced a week of mourning during which Kurdish flags would be flown at half-mast.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, a fierce opponent of last week’s referendum, hailed Talabani for his role in “building a federal Iraq.”
Talabani “described Iraq as a bouquet made up of several flowers,” he said, referring to the country’s different communities.
Talabani’s death, following a decades-old struggle for Kurdish statehood, came after Iraq’s Kurds voted 92.7 percent in favor of independence in the September 25 referendum.
The vote was rejected as illegal by the federal government in Baghdad as well as by Iraq’s neighbors.
Baghdad retaliated last week by banning all international flights in and out of the Kurdish autonomous region except for humanitarian cases.


Sadr’s call for delay in Iraqi government formation deemed impractical

Protesters hand over job requests to government employees in Basra. (Reuters)
Updated 9 min 27 sec ago
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Sadr’s call for delay in Iraqi government formation deemed impractical

  • Mass protests have been sweeping the southern provinces since July 8 as anger grows over a serious lack of basic services, such as electricity and drinking water, and the high rates of unemployment and poverty
  • At least 12 protesters were killed and hundreds were wounded, most of them policemen

BAGHDAD: Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, whose political bloc won Iraq’s election on May 12, on Thursday called on all politicians to delay efforts to form a new government until the demands of protesters seeking better services in the south of the country are met.

“The winning political parties in the election have to suspend all political dialogues for forming coalitions until they meet protesters’ rightful demands,” he posted on Twitter. It was his first public comment on the unrest sweeping the south.

However, analysts and even Sadr’s Shiite partners said that suspending the talks is “impractical” and will not help to address the demands of protesters.

“We must expedite the formation of a service government that operates according to clear programs and time limits if we want to meet the demands of the demonstrators,” said a prominent Shiite leader, and one of Sadr’s allies, who asked to remain anonymous.

“There are constitutional deadlines that we must abide by. Parliament must meet immediately after the ratification of the election results to choose the president and complete the steps to form a government.

“It is illogical to wait until the demands of protesters are met because most of these demands need months or years to turn into reality.”

Sadr’s call is seen by many analysts and politicians as an attempt to capitalize on the wave of protests, especially as protesters in Basra and several other provinces already rejected offers made by him to organize mass demonstrations led by his followers.

“There is no contradiction between meeting the demands of the demonstrators and continuing negotiations to form a government,” said Ahmed Jallil, an Iraqi analyst.

“Sadr just feels that he is not controlling the scene this time, after his previous offers were rejected, and his rivals have come close to forming a coalition away from him. So the best way to regain control is by riding the wave of the demonstrations.”

Mass protests have been sweeping the southern provinces since July 8 as anger grows over a serious lack of basic services, such as electricity and drinking water, and the high rates of unemployment and poverty. 

The demonstrations turned violent when protesters stormed Najaf airport and the headquarters of several oil companies in the oil-hub city of Basra, and set fires in many governmental and partisan buildings.

At least 12 protesters were killed and hundreds were wounded, most of them policemen, according to the Iraqi Commission of Human Rights.

The demonstrations are the latest results of the unrest that has plagued the country since the announcement in May of the preliminary results of the parliamentary national elections.

Most Iraqi political leaders have backed the protesters in their “legal” demands.