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Iraq: Kurds Agree To Unify Administrations

KDP head and current Kurdistan President Mas'ud Barzani (file photo) (epa) The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) reached an agreement on 7 January over the joint administration of the Kurdistan regional government. The agreement, several years in the making, has been hailed across the region. Kurdish leaders said the agreement will be presented to the Kurdistan National Assembly for ratification following the Eid Al-Adha holiday, which ends on 12 January.

The two parties have maintained separate administrations in the zones that they have controlled since the end of the Kurdistan civil war in 1998.

According to the new power-sharing agreement, KDP members will be appointed to head the Agriculture, Culture, Electricity, Finance, External Affairs, Higher Education, Martyrs, Municipalities, and Water Resources ministries.

The PUK will oversee the ] Education, Endowments, Interior, Health, Human Rights, Justice, Planning and Reconstruction, Social Affairs, and Transport ministries.

There is no conclusive word on which party will control the Peshmerga Affairs Ministry, which will be responsible for managing some 160,000 peshmerga fighters, London's "Al-Hayat" reported on 10 January. The daily reported that the unification of the Kurdish peshmerga, police, military intelligence, external intelligence, and internal security services could take up to 18 months.

According to media reports, KDP head and current Kurdistan President Mas'ud Barzani will retain the presidency, and Nechirvan Barzani will serve as prime minister. The PUK's Adnan Mufti will serve as parliament speaker. The parties, which ran a joint slate in the 15 December Iraqi National Assembly elections, have agreed to nominate PUK head Jalal Talabani for the Iraqi presidency.

Reuters reported on 10 January the parties would switch control of the Kurdish presidency and parliament speaker positions after two years.

'Historic' Accord

Kurdish leaders praised the agreement at a 7 January press conference in Salah Al-Din, calling it "historic." KDP member and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Nuri Shaways said the agreement was finalized in writing after lengthy discussions by the political bureaus of both parties.

"This is a significant step in the history of the people of Kurdistan," PUK Political Bureau head Kosrat Rasul Ali told reporters at the press conference. Ali said he hoped the Kurdish administration would take into account the sacrifices made by Kurdish families during the struggle to unite Kurdistan and compensate those who suffered during the Kurdish civil war.

There is also no word on what role, if any, will be given to smaller Kurdish parties in the unified government. The Kurdistan Islamic Union, which placed second in the recent national election in all three Kurdistan governorates, may be left out in the cold, given the union's current relationship with the parties.

Unification After Years Of Conflict

The Kurdistan region went through a turbulent period following the 1991 Gulf War. The United States secured autonomy for the region after it established a northern no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel in 1991. Kurdish parliamentary elections were held and a regional government was formed in 1992, but relations between the two parties were less than cohesive due to internecine fighting.

By 1994, civil war had broken out. In 1996, KDP head Mas'ud Barzani elicited the help of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to drive PUK peshmerga forces from Irbil and other strongholds. A Washington-brokered peace accord between the KDP and PUK in 1998 eventually brought an end to the conflict.

Though they share power in a regional parliament -- newly elected in 2005 -- the two sides have continued to maintain separate administrations in their respective areas of control in Kurdistan. Last year, the two parties began drafting a constitution for the entire Kurdistan region.

Iraq's Kurdish Region

Iraq's Kurdish Region

KURDISH AWAKENING: The ethnic Kurdish region in the northern part of Iraq has struggled in recent years to reestablish its cultural and political identity after decades of oppression under the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. In December, RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel traveled to this area and filed several reports:

Relative Peace Underscores Issue Of Kurdish Region's Future

Kurdish Culture Begins To Flourish In Kurdistan Region

Kurds Ponder How To Strengthen Autonomy After Elections

Irbil’s Kurds Live On A Hill Of Undiscovered Treasures

THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.