LONDON (AFP) -British military officers in Iraq have been party to secret talks with Sunni insurgent leaders there, Iraq’s president said in an interview published Tuesday.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph while in London, Jalal Talabani added that Sunni rebels were shifting their perceptions to view Shiite-dominated Iran as more of a threat than foreign forces.
“There are resistance movements that are now meeting with the prime minister, with me, with British military officers and the ambassador for reconciliation talks,” Talabani told the paper.
“The biggest step forward would be to have the full participation of all the main groups in Iraq … We need national unity. We must convince the Sunni Arabs they are a real partner.”
Talabani reiterated comments made at Cambridge University last week when he said coalition troops would have to stay in Iraq until the end of next year, at which point they would be able to leave.
He also said Sunni insurgents felt more threatened by Iran than by coalition troops.
“There is a big change in the mentality of the Sunni Arab,” he said.
“They are now considering Iran is the danger and no longer considering America the danger.”
Talabani also linked Iran’s battles against internal dissent with attacks against British forces in southern Iraq.
“When there are some attacks (in Iran) they think it is British-backed activities, so they (the Iranians) do some limited things in Basra,” he said.