Iraq Kurd leader criticizes councils backed by Maliki
PM Maliki says the tribal councils are a way of winning the support of local leaders and increasing the strength of the state.
The head of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region criticized on Monday t tribal councils backed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a sign of worsening tensions between the Kurds and the central government.
Kurdish President Massoud Barzani threatened to treat any tribal leaders who join such councils in the three Iraqi Kurdish provinces as "traitors", and warned that Arabs joining such councils in other neighbouring provinces could trigger war.
Maliki has made high profile bids to set up tribal "support councils" throughout Iraq, which his political rivals say undermine the elected institutions of the state.
"Talk about establishing supporting councils in Kurdistan is forbidden and we consider it as treason against us," Barzani told Arab tribal leaders from neighbouring Nineveh province attending a conference in the Kurdish capital Arbil.
"We have a free parliament and a government of institutions in Kurdistan, and we will never permit anyone to interfere in our region to create a conflict," he said.
"As for Arabs, if they contribute in forming supporting councils in adjacent areas to the Kurdistan region, so they will help to trigger a conflict."
Maliki says the tribal councils are a way of winning the support of local leaders and increasing the strength of the state.
Relations between Barzani's Kurdish regional government and the central government in Baghdad have become increasingly fraught in recent months, with unresolved disputes over oil and territory leading to increasingly bitter rhetoric.
Tensions between Arabs and Kurds have also threatened to ignite violence in disputed areas along the "green line" that separates Kurdistan from the rest of Iraq, especially ahead of provincial elections at the end of this month.
In Nineveh, Iraq's most violent province, a boycott by Arabs during the last election put Kurds in control of the provincial government despite making up just a quarter of the population. They are expected to see their grip loosened by the election.
Reuters Last Mod: 20 Ocak 2009, 15:12