The Iraq Study Group's report on the situation in Iraq has received a strong rebuke from the leader of the northern Kurdish region of the country.
Massoud Barzani, the president of the northern Iraqi Kurdistan region, accused the commission on Friday of trying to impose the "wrong solutions" on the Iraqi people.
Barzani was sharply critical of the report's recommendation that the Iraqi central government should have control over the natural resources of the country and said that the mechanism of natural wealth distribution in the constitution was sufficient.
The Iraq Study group chairs Lee Hamilton and James Baker, a former US secretary of state, unveiled their findings on Wednesday.
Barzani said the panel had not even bothered to visit the Kurdish region before publishing their report.
"We are in no way abiding by this report," he said. Barzani, is a key ally of the US in Iraq.
Meanwhile the 22-member Arab League was quoted by the Mena news agency on Friday as saying it was astounded by the study group report, which it said trampled on the rights of Iraqis and made face-saving a priority.
Other Iraqi leaders, most of whom appear to have been familiar with the contents of the report prior to its official release, were cautiously optimistic about the proposals, especially those calling for national reconciliation.
In its efforts to promote greater unity for the country, the ISG report appears to have trodden on the Kurds' toes. Their autonomous region has escaped the violence raging in the rest of the country and is practically a separate entity.
|Barzani has otherwise been an ally of the US|
The report suggested delaying the implementation of constitutional article 140 calling for a controversial referendum to decide the future of the northern oil city of Kirkuk, a tense mix of ethnic groups.
Barzani’s reaction was echoed by Ali al-Jarush, the Arab League’s official responsible for Iraq, who was quoted by the Mena news agency as being "astounded that the Baker-Hamilton report carries on regardless of the rights of Iraqis and limits itself to making it a priority to preserve the aura, interests and face-saving of the American administration".
The comments on Friday came after the head of the Cairo-based group, Amr Moussa, called the report "very interesting, full of very sound recommendations" after talks in Washington with Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State.
"The people of America want to apologize to the Iraqis for the mistakes of our elected officials"
Al Hajji Yusef, Mobile, US
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That report said progress towards Arab-Israeli peace was key to saving the situation Iraq.
It also called for direct talks between the US and Iran and Syria.
The renewed focus on Mideast peacemaking and growing domestic pressure on US leaders to end the crisis in Iraq have Israelis worrying about a possible policy shift by George Bush, the US president, who for six years has largely steerd personally clear of the intricacies of the peacemaking process in the Middle East.
Israel's leading newspaper, the Yediot Aharonot daily, said Bush was "trying to change his policy" and slammed the Iraq report, accusing its chief authors James Baker and Lee Hamilton of ignoring Israel during its preparation.
"If the truth be told, they barely paid any attention to us," the newspaper said. "For 14 years, Israel enjoyed warm and pampering attention under Clinton and Bush. Now, in light of the catastrophe in Iraq, Baker and Hamilton wish to restore us to our proper proportions."
Edward Djerejian, a senior adviser to the Iraq Study Group, told the paper that were Washington to shift its tack, Israel would follow suit.
Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has, however, expressed disatisfaction with the report's recommendations.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, he said US problems in Iraq "are entirely independent of the controversy between us and the Palestinians".
Elsewhere, responding to the ISG report John Howard, the Australian prime minister and staunch supporter of Bush, admitted on Friday that the war in Iraq was progressing "very badly", but ruled out any hasty withdrawal of Australian troops.