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Iraqi Kurds press for devolved state

Iraqi Kurds are at loggerheads with US occupation authorities over a future autonomous Kurdish state in the north of the country.

Last Modified: 05 Jan 2004 16:50 GMT
Kurdish parties want autonomy in northern Iraq

Iraqi Kurds are at loggerheads with US occupation authorities over a future autonomous Kurdish state in the north of the country.

A source close to the Kurdish bloc in Iraq's Governing Council told Aljazeera.net on Monday the US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, was stalling over Kurdish federalism proposals.

According to the source, Bremer asked Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Massud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), to be patient in calling for Iraqi federalism.

The US governor wants the "situation" in Iraq to return to normal and a constitution to be agreed upon before Kurdish autonomy is considered.

Barzani (L) wants guarantees 
from Bremer over ''Kurdistan'' 

But the source said: "Bremer's position didn’t satisfy the ambition of the two Kurdish leaders who think that opportunities will be narrowed as time goes by.

Autonomy or independence?

"Bremer was talking about a new federal democratic Iraq without stating the form of federalism and whether it was the same federalism the Kurds have proposed.

"Kurdish media in Arbil considered Bremer's announcements an evasion from an answer awaited by Kurds."

The current president of the 25-member council, Adnan Pachachi, has also urged the Kurds to be patient.

He said: "We have accepted federalism in principle, but there are different forms of federalism in the world and I cannot tell you for the moment what the final form will be in Iraq."

Pachachi, a Sunni Muslim Arab, said the status of the Kurdish region would be "defined by the constitution which will be drafted by a freely elected body", but noted that such a body was not due to be elected until March 2005.

Kurdish parties want to divide Iraq into two regions - one Kurdish and one Arab.

The Kurdish region, called "Kurdistan", would have its own government, but would defer to Baghdad in military, financial and foreign affairs.

The Kurds say their proposals were agreed to in a series of Iraqi
opposition conferences before the US invasion in April.

"Bremer's position didn’t satisfy the ambition of the two Kurdish leaders who think that opportunities will be narrowed as time goes by... Kurdish media in Arbil considered Bremer's announcements an evasion from an answer awaited by Kurds"

Kurdish source to Aljazeera.net

Consequences

But Arabs in the governing council say they have agreed only on a form of "federalism" without specifying details.

Moreover, other Kurdish groups want to go a step further and declare formal independence from Iraq. 

Kurdish analysts have already warned of what may happen should a Kurdish autonoumous region fail to materialise.

In an interview with Aljazeera.net, Mahdi Khoshnaw, head of a Kurdish writers' group in Arbil, said: "If our proposal was rejected, our choice would be changed to one that could not be in favour of Iraq." However, he did not elaborate on the statement. 

And Firhad Awni, head of the Union of Kurdistan Journalists (UKJ), said:
 "We were forcibly annexed to Iraq according to the resolutions of colonialism. Now, we call for separation."

Wave of violence

Meanwhile, an Iraqi policeman has been injured in a rocket attack in the  northern oil city of Kirkuk

He was injured on Monday in a dawn rocket attack on a police post in the city, police said, in the latest incident to hit Iraq's northern oil centre since ethnic unrest last week.

The incident followed an attack late on Sunday in which the offices of prominent political group, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) were attacked, injuring a guard.

Turkmen and Arabs oppose plans
for Kurdish autonomy

The attacks followed reports from the US military that it carried out raids in Kirkuk which resulted in the arrest of an official from the PUK's main rival, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP).

Kirkuk's police chief, General Turhan Yusuf, said that the raids, which also targeted ethnic Turkmen and Arab political parties, netted a haul of small arms and rockets, but did not involve any arrests.

A wave of violence has shaken Kirkuk since last Wednesday when four people were killed after PUK militiamen opened fire on a demonstration of Turkmen and Arabs.

The demonstrators were protesting against the Kurdish drive to incorporate Kirkuk into "Iraqi Kurdistan".

Source:
Aljazeera + Agencies
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