Kurdish leader presses for independence
KIRKUK, Iraq (UPI) -- The leader of Iraq's Kurdish region says Kurds could have occupied Kirkuk after Baghdad fell, but chose instead to pursue independence peacefully.
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani says Kurds could have occupied the territory after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, The New Anatolian reported Friday.
"We could have taken over Kirkuk by various means in 2003 when Saddam was toppled. However, we choose to do this through peaceful means and through the laws," he said.
Barzani, speaking at the opening of the United Nations mission in Erbil, accused the Baghdad government of delaying a referendum on the territory to be decided this year, the Turkish newspaper reported.
Kurds do not want Kirkuk because of its oil resources, he said, noting that they get 17 percent of Iraq's oil revenues -- a share that will not change regardless of who controls Kirkuk.