by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Oct 7, 2017
A row has broken out over the use of the Kurdish flag rather than Iraq's colours at former president Jalal Talabani's funeral, at a time of Iraqi-Kurdish tensions.
Social media is abuzz with chatter over the choice of flag at Friday's funeral in Sulaimaniyah, Talabani's fiefdom in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
Central government figures and Iraqi Kurdish leaders including long-time rival Massud Barzani attended the funeral ceremony in honour of Iraq's first non-Arab president, who died in Germany on Tuesday aged 83.
The funeral of Talabani, who served as president from 2005 to 2014 and was seen as a unifying force in Iraq, came barely a week after an Iraqi Kurdish independence vote that has deepened divisions between the Kurdish region and Baghdad.
Ala Talabani, a legislator and a niece of the late president, said an Iraqi flag had been brought for the funeral. "We were surprised that it was no longer there," she said.
She was also not expecting the funeral to have been organised by Barzani's Iraqi Kurdish leadership rather than her uncle's own Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.
A Shiite Arab political leader, Ammar al-Hakim, called for an "apology" over the absence of the Iraqi flag.
Going further, Karim al-Nuri, spokesman for the powerful Iran-backed Badr paramilitary organisation, condemned what he called "a fault" committed by Barzani and his wife.
"They did it on purpose... They are not foolish enough to imagine they can keep insulting Iraq without us reacting and without all this leading us into dangerous waters," he said.
Dignitaries gather in Kurd city for Iraq ex-president's funeral
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 honour 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 colours of the Kurdish flag, as the Iraqi national anthem and then the Kurdish anthem were 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 favour 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 neighbours.
Baghdad retaliated last week by banning all international flights in and out of the Kurdish autonomous region except for humanitarian cases.
Paris (AFP) Oct 5, 2017
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday he did not want an armed conflict with his country's Kurds, days after the autonomous Kurdistan region voted for independence in a referendum. "We don't want armed confrontation, we don't want clashes but federal authority must prevail," he said after a meeting in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron. "Separatism is unacceptable," ... read more
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