Kosrat Rasul, Lined Up to Succeed Talabani as PUK Chief, Meets with KDP and Gorran

03/01/2013 RUDAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kosrat Rasul Ali has been appointed to succeed Jalal Talabani as head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and has held regular talks with leaders of ruling partner the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and rival Gorran since the Iraqi president’s illness, officials said.

Sulaimani province, regarded as the PUK’s home base, has been a hive of activity over choosing a party successor to the 79-year-old Talabani, who suffered a serious stroke last month and has been recuperating at a hospital in Germany for the past two weeks.

Massoud Barzani, the KDP head and president of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in which the PUK is a ruling partner, led a delegation to Sulaimani to confirm his personal and party support for the PUK, officials said.

Senior officials from the Change Movement (Gorran), which is considered the PUK’s rival, also have met with Kosrat and expressed support for his party, PUK leaders and a Gorran official said.

“We are closely following the developments within the PUK and senior officials of Gorran have met with Kosrat Rasul Ali,” the Gorran official said on condition of anonymity. Gorran leader Nawshirwan Mustafa, “Has personally contacted Kosrat Rasul to talk about the situation in the PUK and Barzani’s visit to Sulaimani,” the official told Rudaw. “It is true that Mr. Nawshirwan and Mr. Kosrat spoke over the phone, but we are unaware of the content of their conversation,” PUK politburo member Adnan Mufti told Rudaw. He said that since Talabani’s illness, Barzani also had been “in constant touch” with the PUK’s top leaders, including Ali, Barham Salih and Mala Bakhtiyar, as well as Talabani’s spouse. Fareed Asasard, a member of the PUK’s leadership, confirmed that Ali and Mustafa had met, but said, “Their meetings were held on an individual level, not at party level.”

“I believe these meetings will continue at the current stage,” he added.

However, Gorran’s public relations official Muhammad Taufiq Rahim said he was unaware of his party’s visit and Mustafa’s talks with the PUK.

Asasard also confirmed Barzani’s meetings with the PUK leadership.

“Massoud Barzani had always directly contacted Talabani to communicate with the PUK, but after the illness Massoud Barzani came to Sulaimani and said that he would directly call the PUK politburo,” Asasard said. The PUK was founded in 1976 and Talabani has been the party’s general secretary ever since. In 2007, the PUK signed a strategic agreement with the KDP to jointly rule the Kurdistan Region. PUK and Gorran leaders met last September for the first time in six years, following years of tension and rivalry between the two sides. Mustafa was Talabani’s deputy in the PUK until he split and formed his own Gorran party in 2009.