My thanks to the Kurdish National Congress and to the kurdish authorities for making this event possible.
These are times filled with hope and promise, but also troubled and confused times for the people of South Kurdistan and for the people of Iraq.
The terrible regime of Saddam Husein has been toppled, and the people of South Kurdistan have received an historic opportunity to rebuild their society in their own image. However this opportunity has come through an America-led invasion which many people in the Middle East and elsewhere view with great suspicion.
Public opinion in Europe is confused, in the existing situation even traditional friends of the kurds find it problematic to lend their unconditional support to Kurdish Home Rule in South Kurdistan. The Norwegian Council on Kurdish Rights (RKR) and the Norwegian Green Party are just as confused by the present situation as public opinion in general.
European antiamerican sentiments, never deeply buried, has led to widespread antagonism towards the american presence, many people see Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani as mere tools of American imperialism.
Many people also, for a variety of reasons, see the sunniarabs as the natural leaders of Iraq, and by extension see the sunni insurgency as a "national liberation movement" against the American aggressors. By this kind of thinking even brutal killers such as Zarqawi and Mullah Krekar are seen as freedom fighters.
You know, and I know, that this picture is false. But a lot of hard work is necessary, in Europe and elsewhere, in order to transform public perceptions of the present situation in Iraq.
This work is not impossible. The kurds have many friends, and the considerable achivements in South Kurdistan are a solid starting point to make the case that Kurdistan is a viable and legitimate member of the community of Nations.
I am willing to take part in this work, along with many others, but we must not fool ourselves that it will be smooth runninng all the way.Jan Bojer Vindheim