President Talebani: God willing, with the new EU attitude, they will take Mojahedin Khalq back to Europe
… Asked about National Security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay’i’s statement that the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization’s Camp Ashraf will be closed and a new security pact will be signed with Iran, Talabani says: "Dr Muwaffaq al-Rubay’i was not authorized to announce this because he is not the Iraqi Government’s spokesman. Dr Ali al-Dabbagh is the official spokesman. The Iraqi constitution rejects the presence of foreign armed forces on its land. It also rejects the presence of any non-Iraqi armed organization on its land be it Kurdish, Persian, or Turkish. We have always called for finding a solution to Camp Ashraf by closing it and finding safe places for those present in it. The Iraqi Government does not have the intention or legal international ability to hand them over to Iran. Iran made proposals to us. For example, it said it is ready to provide anyone of them wishing to travel to Europe with a passport. There is now a new attitude in Europe towards the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization. God willing, the European states will reach a solution according to which they will accept them there. This group’s stay in Iraq is no longer accepted by the people and government. I can tell you that the leadership of this group committed big mistakes in the past. It cooperated with the dictatorial regime in the fight against the Kurds and the Shi’is in the central and southern regions. Therefore, they were involved in the bloody Iraqi conflict. Accordingly, the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people want this group out of Iraq, but not by force or handover to Iran as reported. We reject this." …
Iraqi president interviewed on elections, Obama’s message, domestic issues
Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, in Arabic, February 01, 2009
Reported by: BBC Monitoring Middle East
["Frankly Speaking" programme, featuring an interview with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Al-Sulaymaniyah on 30 January by Elie Nakuzi in the studio – recorded]
Dubai Al-Arabiya Television in Arabic at 2004 gmt on 30 January carries a new 51-minute edition of its "Frankly Speaking" weekly programme, featuring an interview with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who is interviewed via satellite from Al-Sulaymaniyah on 30 January by Elie Nakuzi in the Dubai studio.
Talabani begins by responding to a question on his health. He denies what he calls "tendentious rumours" about his health and says he is fine.
Asked about US President Barack Obama’s message to the Islamic world through Al-Arabiya Television, Talabani says: "I think that the mere arrival of Mr Barack Obama at the White House was a major historic change. I also think that his new language, which is overflowing with friendly feelings and turn towards dialogue, bodes well. When Mr Obama took the constitutional oath, he did not hesitate to mention his name in full as Barack Hussein Obama. I think this, too, is a message to the Islamic world that he does not deny his relationship with it." He adds: "But there are many intricate problems the Islamic world and its leaders are requited to work on in order to facilitate the arduous task of solving the outstanding problems in the Islamic world."
When told that President Obama said he had "difficult and big decisions" to make on Iraq and that many think he would fulfil his promise to withdraw the US forces from Iraq, and asked if Iraq has apprehensions about a "prompt" US withdrawal from Iraq, Talabani says: "I have no fears about the gradual withdrawal Mr Barack Obama promised the American people during the electoral campaign. I think achieving security and stability in Iraq hinges on the unity of the political forces in a real national unity government and on the attainment of national reconciliation in Iraq. If these tasks are accomplished, security and stability will then prevail in Iraq. We can enforce the law and maintain security and stability in Iraq with the help of the Iraqi armed and police forces that we have now."
Asked about the Iraqi provincial council elections and the prime minister’s performance, Talabani says: "I think the Iraqi elections are going on normally. I take into consideration the fact that Iraq has not witnessed free and democratic elections for over 50 years. Therefore, we believe that elections are going on well. It is normal to exchange accusations during the electoral campaign, but we need evidence to prove interference by government agencies. Initial results do not support these accusations." He then hopes that no rigging will take place anywhere in Iraq.
On the difference between the past and current elections, Talabani says the current electoral lists do not depend on the sectarian factor because the Shi’i and Sunni coalitions are running in independent lists and platforms.
When told that opinion polls showed progress by seculars and moderates at the expense of sectarian and religious parties, and asked if he feels that the religious parties are retreating, Talabani says: "I cannot judge things now. I think the main influential forces continue to enjoy large popular support. I noticed progress by some secular parties. Also I noticed the appearance of several secular lists in the regions. This indicates there is progress."
Asked if the Iraqi religious authority supports one party against another, he says: "His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, may God protect him, is neutral and rises above party ideologies. He calls for the participation of the masses in the elections and for choosing the ones that can represent them in the most ideal way. Therefore, he does not side with a faction or group against another. I think he has always played this glorious historic role in all Iraqi issues."
Asked if it is true that there is retreat in the position and popularity of the Kurds in Mosul, Talabani says: "I do not think so. Also I cannot make an accurate assessment before the results of the elections are announced. True, the Kurds in Mosul were exposed to large displacement campaigns. Thousands of families were displaced and tens of thousands of people left their areas. The Yazidi Kurds were also exposed to unjust campaigns and brutal genocide. Therefore, we have to see a change, but I do not think there is a large change or retreat in popular support for the lists. The Kurds did not run independently in these lists. There are also Arab, Islamic, and non-Islamic Iraqi parties in these lists."
On the issue of Kirkuk and why it will not participate in the new elections, Talabani says some of the people who came to Kirkuk from other places will take part in the elections. He adds that the original people of Kirkuk will not participate because the problem of Kirkuk has not been solved yet. He says a census should be held to know which people are eligible for voting.
Continuing, he says: "I think it is possible to normalize the situation in Kirkuk. I visited Kirkuk some time ago and met there with the representatives of all communities and entities. They all expressed a desire to achieve national reconciliation and normalize relations among them and a desire to solve the issue of Kirkuk through accord among all."
Asked about "differences" between the Kurds and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Talabani says: "As you know, differences emerged over certain issues. I regret to see these differences reach the news media. As a president of the republic who works for accord, I had hoped that these differences would be restricted to the lobbies of parties and halls where cordial meetings are held. Differences are not large and intense as some circles say. There are differences, of course, over the issues for which five committees were formed. One of these is the political reform committee. The Iraqi parliament endorsed a political reform paper. This means there is need for political reforms in Iraq. The parliament endorsed this paper, which became a law when the Presidency Council signed it and it should be implemented by the government, parties, and parliament. There are also the issues of security, armed forces, oil, and disputed areas. Committees have been formed for all these in order to address the outstanding issues. This means all admit that there are outstanding issues and these require joint solutions in accordance with the Iraqi constitution and the democratic principles currently prevailing in Iraq. I think that the success of the five committees formed from five parties to solve these problems will lead to the resolution of all differences and, consequently, bolster Iraqi national unity. As a Kurd, I do not think there is any problem that cannot be solved because I think Arab-Kurdish brotherhood is firmly entrenched in history and joint Arab-Kurdish struggle is the only way to achieve the aims of the Kurds, Arabs, and other Iraqi citizens." He adds: "We all have to try to solve problems so that these will not get complicated or create difficulties for the Iraqi people."
On the way he views the performance of Prime Minister Al-Maliki, Talabani says: "Frankly speaking, brother Nuri al-Maliki is an old friend of mine. We struggled together to reach this memorable day. Our personal relationship is good and continuing. There are, however, differences in opinion over certain issues. These could sometimes be between me and him or between him and Mas’ud Barzani, but this is not alienation or hostile and conflicting differences that cannot be solved. I think they can be solved. I would like to tell you that during our last meeting we agreed to bolster relations between the Presidency Council members and the prime minister in the Executive Council and on the basis of the political reform document, which should serve as a programme for all. Accordingly, there are large areas for agreement and accord."
Asked about National Security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay’i’s statement that the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization’s Camp Ashraf will be closed and a new security pact will be signed with Iran, Talabani says: "Dr Muwaffaq al-Rubay’i was not authorized to announce this because he is not the Iraqi Government’s spokesman. Dr Ali al-Dabbagh is the official spokesman. The Iraqi constitution rejects the presence of foreign armed forces on its land. It also rejects the presence of any non-Iraqi armed organization on its land be it Kurdish, Persian, or Turkish. We have always called for finding a solution to Camp Ashraf by closing it and finding safe places for those present in it. The Iraqi Government does not have the intention or legal international ability to hand them over to Iran. Iran made proposals to us. For example, it said it is ready to provide anyone of them wishing to travel to Europe with a passport. There is now a new attitude in Europe towards the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization. God willing, the European states will reach a solution according to which they will accept them there. This group’s stay in Iraq is no longer accepted by the people and government. I can tell you that the leadership of this group committed big mistakes in the past. It cooperated with the dictatorial regime in the fight against the Kurds and the Shi’is in the central and southern regions. Therefore, they were involved in the bloody Iraqi conflict. Accordingly, the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people want this group out of Iraq, but not by force or handover to Iran as reported. We reject this."
Asked about the new security pact with Iran Al-Rubay’i mentioned in his statement, Talabani says: "I have no idea about it. It was an idea Dr Muwaffaq al-Rubay’i put forward. The idea was not studied by the Iraqi Government or parliament. Some officials sometimes make statements outside their jurisdiction and without consulting with the central government, presidency, or parliament. Iraq has not discussed such an issue."
On whether Iran is interfering in Iraq’s elections, Talabani says: "If interference means Iran sympathizes with some candidates and helps them financially, then I will not rule this out. However, if interference means actual daily and administrative interference, I will then rule this out."
Asked if he does not object to Iranian financial aid to some parties, he says: "I do not deny that some parties may have relations with and receive aid from Iran or Arab countries. Funds come to Iraq from all countries around Iraq. This phenomenon regrettably exists, but I do not exactly know who Iran, Syria, or Turkey is helping. These are secret issues that will later become known."
On Iranian-US ties during Obama’s administration, Obama says: "I believe that a serious US-Iranian dialogue will be in the interest of all. It will be in the interest of Iraq, Iran, and the United States." He adds: "I think the Americans and Iranians will use all cards on the table with regard to US-Iranian relations. Personally, I have no apprehensions because the Iraqi card is now in the hands of Iraq, especially after signing the SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement]. I have no apprehensions about any US-Iranian dialogue or negotiations and I do not think these will be at the expense of Iraq."
On Iraqi-Syrian relations, Talabani says: "Now I see a new atmosphere in relations between Syria and Iraq. During my recent meeting with President Bashar al-Asad in Kuwait, we agreed to bolster, develop, and expand these relations. We also appointed an ambassador to Syria to bolster these relations. We are now discussing the issue of renewing the oil pipeline across Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean. We are also trying to improve relations with Syria in other domains. I think Syria is aware of the importance of relations with Iraq. It knows that normal relations with Iraq are in its interest."
Asked if he supports the Saudi monarch’s statement in Kuwait about the Arab peace initiative and asked if he thinks this initiative is now dead, he says: "I do not think the initiative has died. I support what the custodian of the two holy mosques said. I think this initiative is present on the table, but as he said it will not be proposed for ever without a positive response from the Israeli side." He then urges the Israeli rulers to accept the Arab peace initiative, which he describes as "fair and balanced."
Asked if Al-Qa’idah is no longer present in Iraq, he says: "Al-Qa’idah has been much weakened. What is important is that the popular atmosphere that is hostile to terrorism is now large and extensive. The people began to realize that the crimes committed in the name of Islam, including crimes committed against humanity in the form of indiscriminate killing and crimes against the national economy, are all hostile to the Iraqi people. Therefore, people no longer support these operations or facilitate the work of terrorist organizations. On the contrary, people are now cooperating with the government forces in the fight against terrorists."
Asked why he asked Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih and Kurdistan Region Vice President Kusrat Rasul to take over party responsibilities in Al-Sulaymaniyah, he says: "This was done to facilitate the work of the political bureau and leaders present on the ground in Kurdistan so that the required decisions will not be delayed on the pretext that the president or secretary general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is absent. The aim is consolidating the principle of collective leadership in the PUK and facilitating the accomplishments and reforms that are required in the government, party, democratic organizations, and the society."
Concluding, Talabani addresses the Iraqis by saying: "I hope that the elections will lead to choosing true representatives of the Iraqi people. I hope these elections will be a new successful democratic experience in Iraq. I hope that my Iraqi sisters and brothers will actively participate in the elections and choose the ones they believe are qualified and capable of serving them. I think these elections will produce new facts. In the light of these facts, we expect the next parliament to be somehow different from the current one." He adds: "I greatly hope that these elections will usher in a new stage, especially after SOFA has been signed with the United States."
Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, in Arabic