Kurds Reach Agreement with Saddam to End Revolt With AM-Gulf-Refugees, Bjt
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ A Kurdish rebel leader said Wednesday that the guerrillas had reached an agreement in principle with President Saddam Hussein to end their two-month revolt.
The leader, Jalal Talabani, said the Iraqi leader had offered the Kurds an autonomy agreement similar to one signed in 1970.
Talabani, part of an four-member Kurdish delegation that met with Saddam, said details remained to be ironed out and further talks would take place next week.
Talabani is the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the major Kurdish opposition groups. He said all Kurdish refugees on the border with Turkey and Iran were being told to return to their homes in northern Iraq.
News of the tentative agreement sent cheers through a rebel base in the mountains near Suleimaniya. A dozen Peshmergas, Kurdish rebel fighters, sang and danced in the moonlight when they heard the broadcast over foreign radio stations.
Others were dubious.
″He has made promises and signed so many agreements in the past when he was weak. When he became stronger, he betrayed his promises, and cracked down on us.
″Without international guarantees, there will be no solution, no implementation,″ said an older fighter who declined to be identigfied.
Other rebels at the base told Associated Press correspondent Alex Efty they were happy because an agreement would reunite them with their families.
Saddam and top Kurdish rebel leaders discussed free elections for a national assembly, freedom of the press and freedom to assemble, Talabani said. He gave no further details of the talks, but said no agreement had been signed and no guarantees hammered out.
″We have not reached a state of details on the agreement. It was only in principle,″ Talabani said.
In London, some Kurdish exiles frowned on the talks.
″We do not think it is right to have these negotiations while there is no democracy in Iraq itself,″said Kawa Rashid, spokesman for the Iraqi Kurdistan Front, an umbrella organization of the main Kurdish rebel groups.
″I have even heard the word betrayal used,″ she said.
Dr. Kamal Mirawdeli, director of the Kurdish Information and Educational Project, said any concessions by Saddam should be guaranteed by the United Nations.
″In 1983-1984, Talabani negotiated with Saddam, and Talabani said everything was okay,″ Mirawdeli said. ″But nothing came from the Iraqis, it was all empty promises.″
The talks, conceived of a week ago, were realized after both sides failed militarily, he said.
″They failed in crushing and we failed to bring them down,″ Talabani said.
The hourlong talks were ″frank and cordial,″ Talabani said, and Saddam was in a good mood.
″I did not find a weakness in him,″ Talabani said.
In 28 years of dealing with Baghdad, ″I have never seen ... such a positive spirit, such a positive climate,″ he said.
In Ankara, a senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official expressed doubt that the announcement was a bona fide agreement.
″Saddam is fighting a struggle for survival. He can be expected to seize on anything that will help that,″said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
There was no official White House comment. But one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the agreement ″would help facilitate the sense of security for people to return to their homes.″
However, the official added, ″In the long term, we remain skeptical because Saddam Hussein’s track record has not been very good.″
Talabani said the agreement would honor the framework of a 1970 accord granting more autonomy to the Kurds. The government never honored that pact, he said. Saddam destroyed many Kurdish villages in 1974 and again in 1988.
All eight Kurdish rebel groups in Iraq agreed to meet with Saddam in an effort to reach a peaceful settlement to fighting that has driven hundreds of thousands of Kurds into refuge since the Persian Gulf War ended in late February.
Similar fighting has taken place in southern Iraq between Saddam’s army and majority Shiite muslims.
Asked at a late night news conference if he expected a similar agreement in that conflict, Talabani said: ″You will have to ask the Iraqi government.″ He said all Kurdish refugees should now return to their homes.
″Even if they have been persecuted, they must not leave their homeland,″ Talabani said.
Talabani made no mention of the refugee camps being built in north Iraq to protect Kurds from Saddam’s forces. But he said all foreign forces should leave Iraq after a peace agreement has been signed.
In addition to Talabani, the Kurdish delegation in Baghdad included Idris Barzani, a member of the politburo of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and brother of its leader, Massoud Barzani; Mohammed Mahmoud Abdul-Rahman, Secretary-General of the People’s Democratic Party of Kurdistan; and Rasul Mamand, Secretary-General of the Socialist Party of Kurdistan.
The state television showed a smiling Saddam shaking hands with his guests and kissing each of them on both cheeks as they arrived for the meeting.
The media reports on the meeting were the first official word inside Iraq of the Kurdish leaders’ presence in Baghdad.
The Iraqi News Agency said Wednesday’s meeting also was attended by Izzat Ibrahim, deputy chairman of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council and deputy commander-in-chief of Iraq’s armed forces.
Two-thirds of Iraq’s 3.5 million Kurds are believe to have fled into Iran and Turkey, running from Saddam’s vengeance after the Kurdish rebellion failed.
The Kurds have struggled for autonomy for decades. Baghdad granted them autonomy on paper in the early 1970s, but Kurdish leaders charged the government reneged on that agreement and have been fighting ever since.
Despite losing most of his army in the six-week war over Kuwait, Saddam crushed the Kurdish and Shiite post-war uprisings.
But, given the weakened state of his once-powerful military, Saddam has been forced to adopt a more conciliatory line. Kurdish sources said Saddam had indicated that he was prepared to discuss ″everything ... except secession.″