- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2003

SALAHADDIN, Iraq Iraqi opposition groups named a collective leadership yesterday in an attempt to present themselves as a credible force, but their conference here was overshadowed by serious differences with Washington's special envoy over plans for a post-Saddam Hussein government.
After three days of intense talks in the Kurdish rebel-held north, the groups named a six-member council they want to see at the heart of a future administration, and were to have issued a joint statement signaling their unity and readiness for power.
But Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) spokesman Hoshyar Zebari said differences over the wording of a joint statement meant a further day of talks was needed.
He attempted to put a brave face on the delay, but could not hide the emerging cracks in the alliance linked to serious problems with Washington over the specter of Turkish troops moving into northern Iraq and U.S. intention to install an interim military government.
Leading KDP member Sami Abdul Rahman indicated an angry behind-the-scenes exchange with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, and said any U.S.-Turkey deal allowing a Turkish incursion would amount to a "betrayal" and meet stiff resistance.
"To allow Turkish forces into Iraqi Kurdistan despite the total objection of our people is a betrayal. It is not fair that for your own benefit you sacrifice our people," he said.
"Our people are going to resist the plan with all the means at their disposal," he said. "Nothing whatsoever will persuade us to accept an incursion of Turkish forces."
Mr. Abdul Rahman contended that Washington plans to allow 40,000 Turkish troops to establish a 15-mile-deep buffer zone into Iraqi Kurdistan, in return for a key northern front against Saddam Hussein.
Turkey, which already has some 2,000 troops in northern Iraq, is concerned that a war could break up Iraq and encourage Kurds to declare independence, setting an example to the sizeable Kurdish community in Turkey's southeast.
Meanwhile, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Jalal Talabani complained that the United States "didn't tell us about a military government" revealing fears here that many opposition delegates felt they were being sidelined.
Mr. Khalilzad, who played a central role in the formation of a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan, told delegates a future government has to include "those who have suffered under Saddam." That provoked fears that elements of Saddam's Ba'ath party could remain in power.
After the evening's closed-door discussions here, Mr. Khalilzad was whisked away by his team of heavily armed U.S. diplomatic security guards without comment.
In a setback to the opposition groups' effort to make the leadership broad-based, Adnan Pachachi, an 80-year-old former foreign minister and an Arab Sunni Muslim, rejected his nomination to the council.
The opposition also formed 14 committees which roughly match the functions of various ministries in an apparent challenge to Washington, which has urged the groups here not to form a government-in-exile.
But the package was rejected by the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, which boycotted the meeting, slamming participants for adopting a "formula for the sectarian [allocation of] shares."

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