Iraqi leaders reach tentative compromise on Kirkuk

Lawmakers rescheduled for Tuesday a vote on a provincial election law, which had been held up by wrangling over Kirkuk that has threatened to escalate into renewed ethnic strife.

Iraqi leaders reach tentative compromise on Kirkuk
Iraqi political leaders reached a tentative compromise on Monday that may resolve a stalemate over the fate of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and allow local elections to go ahead, the deputy speaker of parliament said.

Lawmakers rescheduled for Tuesday a vote on a provincial election law, which had been held up by wrangling over Kirkuk that has threatened to escalate into renewed ethnic strife.

Khalid al-Attiya, deputy parliament speaker and a member of Iraq's largest Shi'ite bloc, said the parliamentary debate was scheduled "after fresh hope appeared of reaching an agreement".

President George W. Bush has personally phoned senior Iraqi leaders to push them to compromise.

A vote had been planned for Sunday but it was scrapped when lawmakers failed to agree on how the elections would affect Kirkuk.

Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a member of the Shi'ite majority, gathered rival politicians at his home to broker an end to the stand-off over the elections, which the United States and United Nations are urging Iraq to hold this year.

An initial vote to approve the bill last month was marred by a walk-out by Kurdish politicians, who oppose measures.

The bill passed without Kurdish support, but President Jalal Talabani, himself a Kurd, rejected it and sent it back.

If the vote on the bill is delayed until after parliament's summer break, it could put the polls off until well into 2009. Lawmakers said the window for reaching an agreement was closing.

"If this issue is not solved in the next two days and the rivals do not reach to a compromise, the vote on the bill will be delayed until after the summer break," said Hashim al-Taei, a member of the main Sunni Arab bloc.

The Kurds' insistence on including the referendum article "brings the situation back to ground zero," Taei said.

Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker, said Monday's talks centred on a U.N. proposal designed to defuse tensions, which would set up a joint administration for Kirkuk as part of a temporary power-sharing solution.

In a rare foray into politics, a senior Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed al Fayadh, urged Iraqis to vote in the provincial polls despite what he called a disappointing performance by the 2005 victors.

"Not taking part is a serious matter... It is the responsibility of everyone towards their country and themselves to take part in the elections in great numbers," he said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 05 Ağustos 2008, 15:53
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