Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, on a visit to the United Arab Emirates, said Talabani, a former Kurdish fighter, was "one of the politicians in Iraq on whom Turkey places the greatest importance", Anatolia news agency reported.

"Talabani is an experienced politician. He is someone who values Iraq's integrity. Therefore I congratulate him...Talabani is one of the politicians in Iraq on whom Turkey places the greatest importance."

Turkey offers support

Gul added: "Turkey will continue to extend all the support and help it can [to Iraq]." 

"Everyone is an Iraqi before all. I am confident that everybody's Iraqi identity will be strengthened"

Abdullah Gul,
Turkey's foreign minister

Ankara has long been concerned that increased powers for the Kurds in post-war Iraq may embolden them to break away from Baghdad and set a destabilising example for its own restive Kurds in adjoining southeast Turkey.

It has repeatedly warned Iraqi Kurdish leaders against attempts to take control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, which many want to see as the capital of a future independent Kurdish state.

Asked whether he was worried that Talabani might use his presidential powers to press for privileges for the Kurds, Gul said: "Everyone is an Iraqi before all. I am confident that everybody's Iraqi identity will be strengthened and the unity of the country will be strengthened.

"The primary objective of the head of state should definitely be to preserve the unity and integrity of his country."