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 Kurds boycott Iraqi cabinet meeting in disputed Kirkuk city

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Kurds boycott Iraqi cabinet meeting in disputed Kirkuk city  8.5.2012  








Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (C) arrives at Kirkuk airport in northern Iraq on May 8, 2012 on his first visit to the multi-ethic city since taking office. Photo: Getty Images.
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May 8, 2012

KIRKUK, Iraq's border with Kurdistan region, — Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki insisted Tuesday that Kirkuk had an Iraqi identity during a cabinet meet boycotted by Kurdish ministers whose autonomous region lays claim to the disputed city.

The meeting, the first of its kind to be held in the oil-rich and ethnically mixed northern city, came amid chilly ties between the central government and Kurdish authorities who are grappling with several unresolved issues.

"Kirkuk is special. It is special because it is a microcosm of Iraq," Maliki told ministers in a televised portion of the meeting. "In the truest meaning of the word, its identity is Iraqi."

"Its communities are Iraq: Kurd, Arab and Turkman; Shia, Sunni and Christian."

He added that, "this province will stay in this political, social and economic situation."

Maliki's remarks pointed to his opposition to allowing Kirkuk to be incorporated into Kurdistan's three-province northern region as Kurdish officials have called for and Baghdad has opposed.

Diplomats and analysts persistently point to the unresolved row as one of the biggest obstacles to Iraq's long-term stability.

No Kurdish cabinet ministers attended the meeting, apparently having been asked to stay away by the Kurdish regional government, according to two officials, one from the central government and the other Kurdish, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

There are several other ongoing disputes between the central government and Kurdish authorities, notably over oil revenues and the Kurds' refusal to hand over Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is accused by Baghdad of running death squads, accusations Hashemi says are politically-motivated.

Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani has also been critical of Maliki in recent weeks, repeatedly voicing concern over the prime minister's alleged centralization of power.

The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is one of the most disputed areas by the regional government and the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

The Kurds are seeking to integrate the province into the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region clamming it to be historically a Kurdish city, it lies just south border of the Kurdistan autonomous region,
www.ekurd.net the population is a mix of majority Kurds and minority of Arabs, Christians and Turkmen, lies 250 km northeast of Baghdad. Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional attachment to Kirkuk, which they call "the Kurdish Jerusalem." Kurds see it as the rightful and perfect capital of an autonomous Kurdistan state.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is related to the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk city and other disputed areas through having back its Kurdish inhabitants and repatriating the Arabs relocated in the city during the former regime’s time to their original provinces in central and southern Iraq.

The article also calls for conducting a census to be followed by a referendum to let the inhabitants decide whether they would like Kirkuk to be annexed to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region or having it as an independent province.

The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had forced over 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to "Arabize" the city and the region's oil industry.

The last ethnic-breakdown census in Iraq was conducted in 1957, well before Saddam began his program to move Arabs to Kirkuk. That count showed 178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and 10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians living in the city. 

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, AFP| ekurd.net | Agencies  

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