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Iraq's Talabani backs protester demands

March 17, 2011 at 11:27 AM

ERBIL, Iraq, March 17 (UPI) -- Kurdish leaders in Iraq support peaceful demonstrations in the province of Sulaymaniyah, said the Kurdish president of the central government in Baghdad.

Jalal Talabani, Iraqi president and head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, expressed his support for demonstrators gathered in the central square in Sulaymaniyah.

"We, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, express support for peaceful meetings, demonstrations and sit-in occasions; and strongly oppose any violent acts or the use of arms against the demonstrators," he said in a statement quoted by the Voices of Iraq news agency.

The PUK is one of the main parties in the Kurdistan Regional Government along with the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

The Kurdish Peshmerga forces were sent into the city of Sulaymaniyah to protect government buildings and public institutions after demonstrators stormed the headquarters of the KDP in February.

Seven people were killed during clashes between protesters and police forces in the northern Kurdish city.

Talabani said Kurdish authorities would start "immediate reforms" to address public concerns. Iraqi protesters have taken to the streets to call for better social services.

"We support all your legitimate demands and strive to accelerate their achievement, as well as guaranteeing decent life and freedoms for you (demonstrators)," his message read.

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