A referendum had been scheduled for the end of 2007 to decide Kirkuk's status but was delayed for six months, partly to give the United Nations time to come up with proposals for settling the issue. Analysts say a vote on Kirkuk, which sits on one of the world's largest oil fields, could trigger a bloodbath.
Ankara fears Iraq's Kurds will take control of Kirkuk and turn it into the capital of a new state, possibly reigniting separatism among its own sizable Kurdish population.
The remarks by Nechirvan Barzani, a nephew of the prime minister of the largely autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, came yesterday at a press conference when he spoke about his recent contacts in Baghdad with the central government of Iraq.
"The Kirkuk problem has lasted for more than 30 years. Resolving this problem within six months will be difficult. Officials in Baghdad and the United Nations are also working to solve this long-standing and complicated problem," Nechirvan Barzani said, noting that there is no political barrier stopping a referendum from being held.
"However, this problem cannot be resolved within six months or one year. Legal studies are under way. The referendum foreseen in the Constitution should be held," he added.
The Iraqi Kurdish politician's remarks also came a day after remarks on the same issue by the UN special representative to Iraq were made public.
The status of Kirkuk must be solved through a political formula and not a hastily organized referendum that could trigger violence, UN's Staffan de Mistura said in an interview with Reuters released on Monday.
He said a peaceful settlement of Kirkuk's fate -- which he called the "mother of all issues" in Iraq -- would be vital to long-term stability.
De Mistura said last week the UN would suggest a formula by May 15 to resolve conflicts on several disputed areas in Iraq that could serve as a template for Kirkuk.
Today's Zaman, Agencies
Last Mod: 23 Nisan 2008, 11:14