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Kurdish Faction Declares Leader

August 23, 1999

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ One of the two Kurdish factions dominating northern Iraq declared its head as leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region, the group said Sunday.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan controls only part of the autonomous Kurdish zone, and its unilateral anointment of Jalal Talabani as ``leader of the Kurdish liberation movement″ was sure to upset his rival, Masoud Barzani.

Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party controls around two-thirds of northern Iraq, and Barzani considers himself of the country’s 3.5 million Kurds. Talabani holds the rest of the area.

The United States has been trying to reconcile the bitter rivals in hopes of unifying them against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The two parties last met with U.S. mediators in June.

But the two factions have focused mostly on fighting each other. They agreed in 1992 that an elected parliament should choose a governor for the region, but the rivalry has delayed the move.

Currently, they have separate administrations and separate Cabinets, each running day-to-day affairs in their own part of the region.

The Kurdish groups are protected by U.S. warplanes that patrol the skies over northern Iraq. The Kurdish enclave is expected to be used as a springboard in any effort to get rid of Saddam.

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