Barzani says Kirkuk issue must be settled now
BAGHDAD, March 11 (AFP) - 12h46 - Iraqi Kurdish chief Massoud Barzani warned in an interview to be aired on Al-Arabiyah television on Friday that the fate of northern Iraq’s oil-rich city of Kirkuk must be determined now.
"We do not agree on postponing this matter until after the constitution, we must agree on the issue of Kirkuk now," Barzani said, the day after the election-winning Kurds and Shiites said they were about to cement an agreement for governing the country.
The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, the country’s largest vote-getter, and the second-placed Kurds have said they agree that Kirkuk, whose Kurdish population was largely expelled by Saddam Hussein, should be settled under the terms outlined by article 58 of Iraq’s interim constitution (TAL).
But Barzani, who heads the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which controls the northern provinces of Arbil and Dohuk, was insisting the steps to be taken under the provision be spelled out now.
"If we follow what article 58 says then I am sure we can solve this matter peacefully."
A senior KDP official Dilshad Miran, who represents the Kurdish regional parliament in Baghdad, said consensus existed among the parties, but the Kurds, who were brutally oppressed under Saddam, wanted steps spelled out on all issues.
"It is important the understanding between the two sides is clear and transparent. For the Kurdish people there have been a lot of problems in the past. Politics cannot just be built on trust," Miran said.
The Kurds, whose 77 seats give them the second-largest share in the new 275-member national assembly, have insisted on a written pledge from the UIA, which swept the polls with 146 seats, on the TAL and Kirkuk.
The Kurds had wanted guarantees that more steps would be taken on Kirkuk in line with the TAL’s article 58.
The article pledges that the coming government will redress the mass expulsion of Kurds from Kirkuk under Saddam who wanted the region’s lucrative oil reserves under Arab control.
It also calls for the government to examine Saddam’s redrawing of provinces in the name of Arabisation, the jailed dictator’s policy of ridding ethnic minorities like the Kurds from strategic areas.