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Arabs And Kurds Reach Accord In Kirkuk

KIRKUK, Dec 3, 2007 (AFP) – Arab and Kurdish parties in oil city of
Kirkuk have clinched a deal under which Arabs will end their boycott
of the provincial council in return for a more equal sharing of power,
an official said on Monday.

The “in principle” agreement was reached on Sunday, according to the
chief of the Kirkuk provincial council, Razgar Ali, a leader of the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) headed by Iraqi President Jalal
Talabani.

Ethnic Turkmen, however, have refused to join the agreement and will
continue boycotting the 41-member council.

Kirkuk has been gripped by ethnic tension since the US-led invasion of
2003, with Kurds demanding that the city be incorporated into the
autonomous Kurdish region and Arab and ethnic Turkmen opposing this,
saying they fear non-Kurdish communities will be marginalised.

Under the weekend deal the six Arab members of the provincial council
will end their boycott, called more than a year ago in protest at what
they said was the “domination” of Kurdish parties in the multi-ethnic
council.

The two major Kurdish parties, the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic
Party (KDP), occupy 26 seats in the council while the Turkmen Front
has the remaining nine.

“It is a positive step towards building Kirkuk and bolstering peaceful
co-existence in a partnership in which decisions will be made without
injustice,” said Ali, calling at the same time on the Turkmen Front to
join the agreement.

An Arab member of the council, Rakan Saeed al-Juburi, called for
speedy implementation of the agreement.

“We will get, for the first time, the post of Kirkuk’s deputy governor
and the deputy head of the judiciary council. Posts will be
distributed equally — 32 percent each for Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen
and the remaining four percent for the Chaldo-Assyrian, Armenian and
Sabiah minorities,” Juburi said.

A Turkmen official declared that Kirkuk’s problems “cannot be resolved
by compensating one side while marginalising another.

“We have demanded an end to the arrest and marginalisation of Turkmen
and the need to adopt the Turkmen language officially in Kirkuk, but
there has been no response,” said Ali Mahdi, deputy leader of Turkmen
Eli party.

Kirkuk’s population is estimated to be one million, a mixture of
Turkmen, Kurds and Arabs with a Chaldo-Assyrian minority.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said at the end of a
six-day Iraqi visit on Sunday that there was no time left this year to
hold a referendum, which is required under article 140 of the Iraqi
constitution.

“It is my understanding that an effort will be made in the new year to
get a process going forward that deals with article 140 of the
constitution and the issue of Kirkuk,” he told reporters in Baghdad.