Kurdish PM 'welcomes and appreciates' deployment of South Korean troops

Wext: Friday, 13.August. @ 00:00:00 CEST

Mijar:

SEOUL, Aug 12 (AFP) - 11h05 - The prime minister of Iraq's Kurdish regional government, Nechirvan Barzani, said here Thursday he and his people appreciated the deployment of South Korean troops in the war-torn country's north.

"The Kurdish people welcome Korean troops and deeply appreciate the importance of their roles," Barzani was quoted as telling South Korean defense minister Yoon Kwang-Woong.

"We feel grateful for South Korea's efforts to help us," he said.

Barzani arrived here Wednesday on a four-day visit for talks on the deployment of 3,600 South Korean troops on a relief and rehabilitation mission in the Kurdish-controlled province of Arbil, which began this month.

"Not only the leadership and government but also people, many people, appreciate the role and presence of the Korean troops," Barzani told journalists through an interpreter following his meeting with Yoon.

He offered pledges over the South Korean troops' security.

"In the area that the Korean troops will be deployed in our region, there will be 'peshmerga' forces," Barzani said in reference to the militiamen of the Kurdish Democratic Party.

"They will be stationed in a lot of areas ... in order to provide security to the Korean troops."

The peshmerga are Kurdish fighters under the command of the Kurdish party that rules Arbil. Peshmerga forces include mountain troops, counterterrorist forces and quick-reaction battalions.

The Kurdish prime minister said his government, peshmerga forces and South Korean troops have had "continuous meetings" to discuss the troops' safety.

"The protection of the Korean troops as well as civilians who will come with them is a top priority for us," Barzani said.

Newspapers here said a Kurd militia unit had been employed to protect about 40 Korean civilians who are in Arbil to build barracks and communications facilities for the contingent.

During his stay in South Korea, Barzani is also scheduled to meet South Korea's prime minister Lee Hai-Chan and other key cabinet ministers.

Kurds comprise about 20 percent of Iraq's population. They live in northern, mountainous areas that under Saddam Hussein were either neglected or bombed as his regime sought to curb demands for Kurdish independence.

The region has been largely stable, although suicide bombers killed more than 100 people in Arbil in February.

Alarmed at the execution of a South Korean translator abducted by Islamic militants in June, South Korean officials fear the presence of foreign troops in the Kurdish zone may trigger attacks by Iraqi insurgents.

South Korea has imposed a tight media blackout concerning the politically sensitive dispatch of troops, the third largest foreign force in Iraq.


Source: AFP









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