The four officials said President Jalal Talabani was displeased by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's insistence that he should lead the country's delegation at the General Assembly session in New York and a meeting with US President George Bush.

 

None of the four would allow their names to be published because the issue is sensitive at a time when the Shia and Kurds are trying to maintain unity to promote the new constitution in a 15 October referendum.

 

According to all four officials, the dispute began when Talabani sent a letter to al-Jaafari declaring that as Iraq's titular head of state, he would be representing the country at the annual UN session.

 

Al-Jaafari replied by saying that since he runs the government, he should head the delegation; the prime minister suggested that both he and Talabani could deliver General Assembly speeches but the president refused.

 

Two speeches

 

Al-Jaafari says as prime minister
he should lead the UN delegation

On Saturday, Talabani's spokesman, Kamran Qaradaghi, issued a statement saying the president would deliver two speeches at the UN summit on 15 and 17 September.

He added that Talabani would be heading a high-level delegation that would meet Bush and other senior official earlier in the month.

 

A Shia politician, who also refused to be identified, said al-Jaafari decided that unless he could make a speech too, he would stay home.

 

Under Iraq's interim constitution, Talabani leads a three-member council that serves collectively as a head of state.

 

But al-Jaafari runs the government, similar to Germany which has a president with few powers and a chancellor who governs.

 

In May, Talabani represented Iraq in the Summit of South American-Arab in Brazil, which took place less than two weeks after al-Jaafari's government took power.