Barzani urges Iraqi Arabs to give Kurds political due

Leader of Iraqi Kurdistan urged Arabs to give minority Kurds their political due on Thursday.

Barzani urges Iraqi Arabs to give Kurds political due

Leader of Iraqi Kurdistan urged Arabs to give minority Kurds their political due on Thursday in a strongly worded letter highlighting growing ethnic strains in Iraq's federal state.

Without naming names, Masoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, condemned in the open letter those who he said had destabilised ties between Kurds and majority Arab "by provoking harmful ethnic feuds and inflaming the wounds of the past."

Kurds make up about a fifth of Iraq's 28-million population.

Discord between Baghdad and Arbil, the autonomous Kurdish capital, has increased over the division of oil wealth, the proper role of Kurdish security forces and control of northern towns, especially the oil-rich, ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk.

Tensions have grown in recent months as Kurds and Arabs jockey for influence ahead of provincial elections this month.

After Saddam Hussein's ouster in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Kurds made themselves partners in the fledgling Shi'ite-led government, winning newfound influence in Baghdad.

'Balanced partnership'

Barzani has complained in the past that Maliki, who envisions a strong central state, has sidelined Kurds. In his letter, he stressed the "voluntary" nature of the Kurds' union with Baghdad and called for a "truly balanced partnership".

In the upcoming provincial elections, no vote will be held in Kirkuk or the Kurdish provinces, but Kurds could lose influence in places such as the ethnically mixed, volatile city of Mosul, where many Sunni Arabs stayed away from earlier polls.

With tensions simmering late last year, Kurds and Arabs set up a special committee to deal with disputes.

"Arab solidarity with Kurds, in Iraq or in the region, is the best way to continue a peaceful coexistence," Barzani said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 01 Ocak 2009, 17:28
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