Iraqi Kurds seek independence

Updated: 2014-07-04 08:41

By Agencies in Arbil, Iraq (China Daily)

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Iraqi Kurds seek independence

Vote to be held 'within months', president of northern region says

Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq's northern Kurdish region, has asked his regional parliament to make preparations for a referendum on independence from Iraq.

Barzani asked parliament on Thursday to form a committee to organize a referendum, vowing to hold the plebiscite within months, according to a parliament member who attended the closed session.

"The president asked us to for man independent electoral commission to carry out a referendum in the Kurdistan region and determine the way forward,"said lawmaker Farhad Sofi, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Before the session, Farsat Sufi, a lawmaker in the Kurdish parliament, said the referendum would be on Article 140, the section of the Iraqi Constitution that provides for a vote on whether disputed northern territory will join the Kurdish region or remain under direct federal control.

Barzani did not offer a timetable on the work of the proposed committee, several Kurdish lawmakers said. However, speaking to the BBC this week, the president said a referendum on regional independence would be held "within months".

Territorial control

Sofi, an MP from the KDP, said Barzani also wanted parliament to speed up the approval of a law establishing an independent electoral commission for the region.At present, elections across Iraq are organized by the country's Independent High Electoral Commission, including votes in Kurdish areas.

Iraq's security forces abandoned positions in a swath of northern territory when faced with a Sunni militant offensive that began on June 9, allowing Iraqi Kurds to take control of disputed areas they have long wanted to incorporate into their autonomous region over Baghdad's strong objections.

Barzani has previously declared that the territorial dispute is finished, meaning Kurdish control of the areas would continue.

But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki dismissed that assertion on Wednesday.

"No one has the right to exploit the events that took place to impose a fait accompli, as happened in some of the actions of the Kurdistan region. This is rejected."

The United States has publicly urged Barzani to stick with Baghdad.However, last month, the Kurdish leader told US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting that it was"very difficult"to imagine Iraq staying together.

On Thursday, Baghdad's military continued to battle Sunni insurgents led by the Islamic State jihadi group, apparently unable to break a stalemate in the conflict, which threatens to break up the country.

A police lieutenant colonel said security forces clashed with militants near Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.Despite a much-touted offensive against militants there, security forces have so far been unable to capture the city, which is considered of key strategic importance.

Meanwhile, Maliki extended an amnesty for Sunni fighters who stop supporting the Islamic State insurgents.The move seems aimed at undercutting support for the militants who have overrun large areas of Iraq.

Maliki took the step after the national parliament's first session ended in a farce, with MPs walking out instead of working together to form a new unity government.

Reuters - AFP

(China Daily 07/04/2014 page12)