Saturday, August 06, 2005

Tension grows in Iraq's Kirkuk

BAGHDAD August 06, 2005 8:11:49 PM IST

Tension was rising Saturday in the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk as residents say they fear an outbreak of civil war among the Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.
Local officials in the northern city said a crisis erupted when hundreds of Kurds, accompanied by National Guards, began distributing residential lands to ethnic Kurds who were allegedly expelled from the area under the former regime of Saddam Hussein.
Turkmen sources in Kirkuk said these lands belonged to their own ethnic people before the former regime pushed them out or executed their members, after which the lands were excavated with bulldozers.
The issue of the city remains the main obstacle to reaching a consensus on the new Iraqi constitution being drawn up by a special commission, as Kurds insist that all their people who were deported to return to the city.
Some commission members are seeking a delay in discussing Kirkuk until after the general elections due at the end of this year.
The Kurds are trying to bring Kirkuk into what they call Kurdistan, but Arab Shiites and Sunnis say they are seeking co-existence among all the ethnic and sectarian groups.(UPI)