Iraqi president rules out Islamic regime in his country

Ankara, Turkey - An Islamic regime will not be allowed in Iraq but the country's predominantly Muslim identity will be respected, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in an interview with a Turkish newspaper.

"We the Kurds will never accept the establishment of an Islamic regime in Iraq," Talabani, a senior politician from Iraq's Kurdish minority, told Monday's edition of the Sabah daily.

Asked whether he would advocate secularism, Talabani said: "Yes, I will, but we do not use the term 'secularism'. What we say is: a democratic, federal, parliamentarian, united and independent Iraq, which respects the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people.

"This is an indication that there will be no Islamic regime or Islamic government" in Iraq, he said.

Talabani added, however, that the country's legislators would not make laws that would contradict the principles of Islam.

After 84 years of secular rule, the triumph of the religious-flavored Shiite alliance in Iraq's January 30 elections has sealed Islam's return to public life in the country.

The Shiite nominee for prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, is in favor of implementing the Sharia, or Islamic law.

His Dawa party and the other major Shiite powerhouse, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), both with long sojourns in Iran, have not hidden their desire for an Islamic state.

But Iraq's interim constitution, signed after much wrangling in March 2004, declared that Islam could only be "a source" of legislation, while stressing that no law contradicting "the universally agreed tenets of Islam" would be accepted.

A March poll by the Washington-based International Republican Institute found that 48 percent of Iraqis believe religion has a "special role to play in the government," while 46 percent want clergy and state separated.