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Iraq deputy PM to quit to take up Kurdish region role

world Updated: Jun 06, 2009 15:06 IST

AFP
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One of Iraq's two deputy prime ministers, Barham Saleh, will resign within days to lead the main Kurdish bloc in elections in the autonomous Kurdish region, an aide told AFP on Saturday.

Saleh has been seen by Western diplomats as one of the most progressive and professional members of the Iraqi government in which he has been a central part of a recent push to attract foreign investment to the war-torn country.

"After the election it was decided between the two parties that Barham Saleh will be the prime minister of Kurdistan," the aide told AFP. "He will present his resignation to the Iraqi government in the coming days."

The alliance is composed of the two dominant Kurdish factions -- the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, in which Saleh is a leading figure.

Elections are due in Kurdistan on July 25 and Saleh's resignation from the Baghdad government will allow him to head the PUK's poll efforts, paving the way for him to become regional premier.

The Kurdish Alliance is strongly expected to win the vote. Saleh would replace Nechirvan Barzani, Massud's nephew and a member of the rival KDP, as regional prime minister.

The vote will mark the first time the Kurdistan regional president has been elected by popular vote. In 2005, Barzani was elected by the regional parliament.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is a member of the country's Shiite Arab majority. He has two deputies -- Saleh for the Kurds and Rafa al-Essawi for the Sunni Arabs.