Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani yesterday appeared before cameras for the first time after he came back from a mysterious trip abroad and assured that Iraqi Kurds did not seek independence by pressing for a contentious referendum on status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
"Some neighboring countries say Kurds will set up an independent state if Article 140 [of the Iraqi constitution that calls for the referendum] is implemented," Barzani told a conference in Arbil. "But there is no such thing. I am an Iraqi. I am an Iraqi citizen of Kurdish origin," he went on.
Turkey as well as other neighbors of Iraq oppose a referendum which was originally slated to take place before the end of 2007. Ankara says the vote would not reflect the true wishes of Kirkuk's ethnically mixed population since the demographic composition has been altered due to an influx of Kurdish immigrants from different parts of Iraq in the recent years. Ankara also says oil and other resources of Iraq should belong to entire Iraq.
Barzani said the Iraqi Kurdish administration, which currently includes three provinces in northern Iraq, would respect any result from the referendum and insisted that the vote would be held eventually.
"There is no such thing as cancellation of the referendum. Sooner or later, it will take place. Depending on the outcome, Kirkuk would either be part of Kurdistan region or Iraq. Kirkuk will decide on this," he said.
The Kurdish leader also called for Iraqi authorities to change the country's national flag, saying the Kurds had been promised that the existing flag would be replaced when Saddam Hussein regime was overthrown, a pledge yet to be fulfilled.
A delegation of Iraqi Kurdish officials, led by regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, yesterday held talks in Baghdad on Kirkuk and disputes between the Kurdish region and the Iraqi central administration concerning oil contracts the regional government has signed with foreign companies.
With national legislation stalled, Kurdish authorities have signed more than a dozen contracts with foreign companies over the objections by Oil Ministry officials in Baghdad, who consider the deals illegal.
Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish government approved a regional oil law in August, paving the way for foreign investment in their northern oil and gas fields. But the national Oil Ministry has declined deals signed under the agreement illegal and threatened to blacklist companies that sign them.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Aralık 2007, 12:40