British FM visits Kurdish leader

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has met British and Iraqi officials and held talks with Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani on an unannounced trip to north Iraq.

    This is Straw's third Iraq trip since the 2003 invasion

    The British embassy announced that Straw arrived in Iraq on Tuesday

     "to talk about bilateral relations, the political and

    electoral process and what more Britain can do to help Iraq"


    Travelling from Amman, Straw met Britain's ambassador to Iraq,

    Edward Chaplin, in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as well as members of

    the provincial council before flying further north to the resort of

    Lake Dokhan in Iraqi Kurdistan.

    Bigley drama

    There, Straw met Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of

    Kurdistan (PUK) - one of the two main political parties in the

    Kurdish north.

    A British embassy spokeswoman said that for security reasons she was unable to reveal

    further details about the trip.

    But she added it had nothing to do

    with an ongoing drama surrounding Kenneth Bigley, a British engineer

    held captive in Iraq and threatened with beheading by an Iraqi group


    "The visit had been planned" for a while, she said.

    This is the foreign secretary's third trip to Iraq since the

    2003 invasion, but his first since power was officially handed over

    from the occupation Coalition Provisional Authority to interim Prime Minister Iyad

    Allawi's government in June.

    As Straw was in Iraq three members of the Kurdish Militia belonging to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party were killed and two others injured in Jalawla area, north east of the mainly Sunni city of Baquba city assailants opened fire on them.

    Iraq's disempowered Sunni Arabs fear that a resurgent Kurdish minority is collaborating with US-led forces and planning to carve an independent state for itself in the north.



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