Kurdish factions to bury differences

Iraq's two rival Kurdish factions have publicly buried their differences in order to gain maximum parliamentary weight to enshrine their autonomy in the country's future constitution.

Last Modified: 01 Dec 2004 22:43 GMT
The agreement means to send out a joint list of candidates

Iraq's two rival Kurdish factions have publicly buried their differences in order to gain maximum parliamentary weight to enshrine their autonomy in the country's future constitution.

"The Kurdish political powers have reached an agreement to present a joint list for the general elections as well as for the Kurdish parliament," said Masud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

He was speaking on Wednesday from his Salah al-Din stronghold in northern Iraq after meeting with Jalal Talabani, whose Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is the Kurdish community's other major party.

"We call on the people of Kurdistan to participate in the elections as we need every single vote to obtain as many seats as possible in the Iraqi national assembly," said Talabani at a joint press conference.

"The current situation obliges us to put the future of Kurdistan before our own individual interests and join the same list to guarantee the rights of the Kurdish people in Iraq," Barzani added.

Jalal Talabani heads the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan (PUK)

On 30 January, Iraqis are due to choose the 275 members of the national assembly. The Kurds will also pick the 111 members of their autonomous parliament.

Talabani urged "the people of Kurdistan to take part in the ballot, because we need every vote we can get in order to obtain the largest possible number of seats in parliament".

The 30 January elections will be a single, proportional ballot. The resulting interim national assembly will be tasked with drafting a permanent constitution.

No Arab support

When asked why the two Kurdish political heavyweights had not joined forces with some Arab parties, Talabani hinted that none of them were ready to boost Kurdish aspirations towards more autonomy.

"We were not able to find an agreement on the place of the Kurds. There are a few Assyrians and some Turkmen on our list but not the Turkmen Front," he explained.

Masud Barzani's KDP wants
greater autonomy

Kurdish inhabited parts of Iraq have been spared much of the violence that followed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which the Kurds staunchly supported.

Its leaders have since exerted simultaneous efforts to grab key positions in the central government while backing every move towards increasing their autonomy.

Barzani said the joint list, expected to be one of the leading blocs in the next interim parliament, would also include the Kurdistan Islamic Movement, but not the other two major Kurdish Islamic parties.

A total of 18 Kurdish electoral lists have been approved by the Iraqi electoral commission.

Relations between the two major groups that control the three Kurdish provinces of Iraq have sometimes been frosty.

The KDP and PUK clashed for several months in 1994 and each one has its own government.

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