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=> Iraqi Kurds Threaten Boycott Of Power Transfer: W. Post

Iraqi Kurds Threaten Boycott Of Power Transfer: W. Post
Posted by Tony (Guest) - Sunday, May 23 2004, 5:17:49 (CEST)
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Iraqi Kurds Threaten Boycott Of Power Transfer: W. Post

CAIRO, May 22 ( The U.S. is facing yet another obstacle that could further hamper its plans for the June 30 handover of limited power to an Iraqi interim government as Kurdish leaders threatened not to hop on board unless they grab one of the top two posts, according to a U.S. paper Saturday, May 22.

Quoting Kurdish leaders and U.S. officials, the Washington Post reported that Iraq's Kurds "want one of the two top positions in the new interim government - President or Prime Minister - or they (the Kurds) will not participate in the body that is scheduled to take over when the United States hands over limited authority on June 30".

According to a formula designed by U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi that the (U.S. President George W.) Bush administration hoped to unveil next week, the Kurds were slated to take a lower position, as one of two vice Presidents, the paper revealed.

"But Jalal Talabani, a veteran Kurdish leader and one of 25 members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, yesterday (Friday, May 21) informed Robert D. Blackwill, the U.S. Presidential envoy to Iraq, that the Kurds would not take the job," according to the Post, citing Kurdish and U.S. sources.

"The move is a setback that complicates U.S. hopes of winning agreement from Iraq's disparate ethnic and religious factions on the makeup of the interim government.

"Unless the Kurds back down or U.S. and U.N. envoys negotiate a compromise soon, the process of forming a government could drag on longer than expected -and potentially deepen rivalries, experts on Iraq warn.

"The Bush administration hopes that the Kurds are posturing and can eventually be brought around, rather than be blamed for sabotaging the third attempt to form a government," the paper said.

"This is jockeying for position and status. It strikes me as politics. It's good to see and messy to watch," the paper quoted a senior State Department official involved in Iraq policy as saying.

"It's how committee assignments get made in our Congress. It's part of working the process and the kind of thing you work through. Talks [on a new government] are proceeding apace."

On the other hand, Talabani and Massoud Barzani, leaders of the two main Kurdish parties, have both insisted that the Kurds have one of the top two positions to create balance with Iraq's majority Arab population, according to the Post.

"The two Kurdish leaders are united. We believe the Kurds can be a bridge between the Sunnis and the Shiites," the paper quoted as saying a senior Kurdish official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Lehigh University professor Henri Barkey told the paper, "They don't want to be a token. There's no question that Barzani and Talabani are bargaining."

An Iraq scholar, Phebe Marr, weighed in telling the paper that with the June 30 deadline looming and the Bush administration struggling to establish control, the Kurds believe they have valuable leverage - and will use it.

"Their strongest tool right now is the power of delay."

"They're going to bargain as hard as they can. They think they've got us over a barrel because we're fighting on so many other fronts: the Sunni front, the Shiite front," said Marr, author of "The Modern History of Iraq."

"With (Saddam) Hussein's government gone and the Kurdish northern sectors being folded back into a united Iraq, Kurds are worried about losing power and influence."

The Kurds have enjoyed 13 years of increasing autonomy and prosperity in a protected security zone since the first Gulf War.

Chiefly representing Iraqi Kurdistan in northern Iraq, the Kurds under control by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), currently hold the Foreign Ministry and the Public Works Ministry as well as three other Ministries, in the U.S.-picked Governing Council.

Even though Kurdish leaders have frequently dismissed reports about their desire to push for a separate Kurdish state in the North, they insisted on inserting a clause, in the interim Iraqi code, allowing minorities to veto a permanent constitution.

The clause delayed the adoption of the interim constitution more than once after objections by the Shiite members of the Governing Council.

Apparently, the Kurds recent threat could, if the standoff was not resolved in time, also delay the transfer of sovereignty.

According to the Post, some analysts believe Kurdish politicians will seek as much autonomy as possible in negotiations over the interim government.


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