Friday, October 27, 2006

As violence grows, oil-rich Kirkuk could hold key to Iraq's future

Tribal chiefs call for return of Saddam while Kurds eye a new federal state
Michael Howard in KirkukFriday October 27, 2006

An Iraqi police commando walks by a burning humvee at the site of a suicide car bombing in the northern Iraqi oil hub of Kirkuk. Photograph: Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty images
The tribal chiefs, in traditional robes and chequered headdresses, emerged from the dust stirred up by their convoy of pick-up trucks and walked towards the big white tent, gesturing welcomes to each other as they sat.
Accompanied by about 500 clansmen and a gaggle of local journalists, the 35 Sunni sheikhs - from Mosul, Tikrit, Samarra and Hawija - converged last week on Hindiya, on the scrappy western edges of Kirkuk, to swear their undying opposition to "conspiracies" to partition Iraq and to pledge allegiance to their president, Saddam Hussein.
Under banners exalting the man now standing trial in Baghdad for war crimes and genocide, the gathering heard speeches from prominent northern Iraqi sheikhs, Sunni Arab politicians and self-declared leaders of the Ba'ath party calling for the former dictator's release.>>>>>>