Talabani-Barak handshake angers some Iraqi MPs

BAGHDAD, July 4 (Reuters) - Several members of the Iraqi parliament called on President Jalal Talabani on Friday to apologise for shaking hands with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak at a conference in Greece this week.

Talabani, a Kurd, was introduced to Barak by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a Socialist International meeting near Athens on Tuesday, where they shook hands.

The handshake, largely ignored by Iraq's media but covered in the Israeli press, sparked heated debate in Iraq's parliament on Thursday.

Like most Arab countries, Iraq does not recognise Israel.

Some members accused Talabani of breaking Iraqi law, although it was unclear what the law says about Israel.

"I told the speaker it was a slap in the face for the Iraqi people," said Ahmed al-Massoudi, from the movement of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

"(The handshake) was a violation of law," he told Reuters.

Massoudi said he had received many complaints from Iraqis about the handshake and some members of parliament had called for an apology. Some had even urged Talabani to resign, he said.

Under Iraq's political system the president is largely a figurehead.

Ali al-Adeeb, a senior parliamentarian from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa party, said the handshake was unacceptable.

"The president is supposed to represent Iraqi policy ... which means not recognising Israel ... He must apologise."

Perhaps sensing the handshake might cause anger, Talabani's office issued a statement on Tuesday saying he met Barak as a representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, not as Iraq's president. The PUK is one of two main Kurdish parties in Iraq.

Fellow Kurds defended Talabani.

"He was welcomed by Abbas who introduced him to Barak. It would have been illogical to refuse. It doesn't mean relations are normal," said Fouad Masoum, a Kurdish member of parliament. (Writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Andrew Dobbie)