Kirkuk strives to maintain ethnic harmony

The newly elected council in the northern Iraq city of Kirkuk chose three assistant mayors from different ethnic groups on Monday in an effort to ease local fears of Kurdish domination.

    US forces are presiding over
    the election process

    An Assyrian, Turkmen and Kurd were chosen as assistant mayors to run the oil-rich city. 

    A prominent Arab council member said the absence of an Arab among them was not a major worry. He said the mayor was likely to be Kurdish and voiced hope that his deputy would be Arab.

    A 30-member council will vote on Wednesday to elect the mayor in a city rife with ethnic divisions. It is widely expected the job will go to a Kurd.

    Under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s “Arabisation” policy, Arabs were settled in homes and property belonging to Kurds in Kirkuk.

    A wave of looting and violence heightened ethnic tensions in the city after the US-led war, leaving at least 10 people dead in clashes between Kurds and Arabs.

    Arabs and Turkmens protested during elections on Saturday for the creation of a council over what they perceived as lack of representation among a block of six independent candidates, which included five Kurds.

    The Arab delegates were upset that seven members of their group were detained, alleged to be senior Baath party members.

    Kurdish leaders have set their sights on the position of mayor regarding it as a payback for backing the US-led war.

    “We supported the Americans and we have suffered so much,” said senior Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) official Kemal Kerkuki.

    The KDP is one of the main Kurdish parties running northern Iraq. During the US-led war last month Kurdish leaders placed their fighters or “peshmerga” under the control of US forces.


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