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Iraq: Kurdish Official Says Kirkuk Normalization To Proceed

Firefighters cope with an oil-well fire caused by an insurgent bomb outside Kirkuk in late May (epa) June 22, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Fu'ad Husayn, director of the presidential office for the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) told RFE/RL Iraq analyst Kathleen Ridolfo that the Kurds are confident Kirkuk will be integrated into the Kurdistan regional government. Husayn said on June 21 that he expects implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution on the normalization of Kirkuk to proceed on schedule.

RFE/RL: Kurdistan regional President Mas'ud Barzani was cited in the media this week as saying there is a possibility that the Kurds would accept a delay in the implementation of Article 140.

Fu'ad Husayn: No, he didn't say that. Actually, the media misinterpreted what he said. President Barzani said "We will never delay; we will never accept any delay in the implementation of Article 140." He said we will not accept any change in that article and we will not accept any delay.

[Barzani] said it is up to the [Kurdish regional parliamentary] committee on Article 140 [to decide] when they are going to implement the whole article. And if the committee says from a technical point of view we need a few months, then [the KRG] will discuss that. But, it will never be a political decision and it will never be a legal change [to the constitution]. So, [Barzani] made it clear. He will not accept a delay. He will not accept any change in the schedule of implementation of Article 140.

"We will not accept changing Article 140, because changing it means deleting it. Article 140 has to do with a time limit, and those who are talking about delaying it, in fact they are talking about deleting it. So, we will never accept that."

RFE/RL: Where does the schedule stand now?

Husayn: Of course, that's up to the committee on Article 140, but they have a time limit. And that time limit is the end of this year. But Article 140 has to do with various stages. One stage -- normalization -- which means resettling the Arabs brought to Kirkuk by Saddam Hussein to their original areas and returning the Kurds displaced from Kirkuk back to Kirkuk -- the committee on Article 140 has taken various decisions as far as this stage, and they are implementing it.

The second stage has to do with census -- and actually census doesn't mean to have information about everything -- but it means to know who is originally from the area, and who can vote. And that's easy to know because [since] 2003, we had various elections, so it is easy to go back to the [voter] registries and know who is [originally] from the area and who can vote. And from there, [we move] to the last stage which is a referendum [on whether to join the Kurdistan region or remain outside it].

RFE/RL: It was reported in the media that 100 billion dinars (nearly $80 million) was allocated to implement the first phase of Article 140. Where is this money going, and is it being spent?

Husayn: As far as the budget for the committee, it has been allocated to the committee. Part of that budget will be given to the Arabs [settled in Kirkuk by Saddam Hussein] so that they can go back and start their life in their original city. And part of [the budget] has to do with the work of the committee itself. So, the Iraqi government has already allocated an amount for the work of the committee and to help the Arabs go back.

RFE/RL: It is possible to move forward with implementation of Article 140 given the security situation in Kirkuk?

Husayn: Yes, yes. I think those people who are active now -- the terrorists and the supporters of the Ba'ath regime -- they are trying with their actions to delay Article 140. Their target is either to delete Article 140 or to delay it, delay the implementation. When the implementation will start -- and it started already -- it will help the population of the area to feel sure about their future. And we think that will reduce terrorist attacks.

Actually, there are people who think that implementation of Article 140 will lead to a civil war. We think the other way around, because at the end, those small groups that are now attacking the Kurds and attacking other government officials in Kirkuk, they are people who are against Article 140. They are people who were against the constitution. They are people who are against the new situation in Iraq.

So when the stage of implementation will begin, I think they will feel they are the losers. And the original people of Kirkuk, they will feel they are more secure, and [that] they will have a future.

RFE/RL: What will happen if some Arab families refuse to be repatriated to their original towns? Will they be allowed to stay in Kirkuk?

Husayn: According to my information, thousands of Arabs have already registered to go back to their original [towns]. So the Arabs who were brought by Saddam Hussein, they are ready to go back.

The original Arabs [from Kirkuk] -- of course we have Arabs who have been there for a long time -- of course they can stay and they will be part of the society, part of the community. But those who have been brought [by Saddam Hussein], their registration will be [transferred] to their original [town] and then they will leave Kirkuk.

RFE/RL: There was a proposal by some Arabs and Turkomans to have Kirkuk designated as a "special status" region where Kurds, Turkomans, and Arabs share power. What has been the KRG's response to this proposal?

Husayn: We are committed to Article 140 and the constitution. Article 140 says that at the end, the referendum will decide [Kirkuk's status]. By the way, it's not just about Kirkuk, it's the whole area -- Sinjar, Khanaqin, and many other Kurdish [populated] towns. So, it is up to the population of these areas to decide, and not [up] to a small group or a political party to decide. When a referendum is held, and when people vote, then we will know in which direction Kirkuk will go. It's not up to some people especially small political parties from the Arab side or the Turkoman side to decide.

A girl in Kirkuk who was wounded by an insurgent bomb in April (epa)

By the way, there are many Turkomans who are ready to be part of this process, and they are supporting the implementation of Article 140. And there are other Arabs, even the original Arabs who say it will be better to be part of a secure area than to be part of a non-secure area -- meaning to be part of Kurdistan [region].

RFE/RL: What will the Kurdish reaction be if Baghdad fails to implement Article 140?

Husayn: We have the feeling that the Iraqi government is cooperating at this stage, and they are supporting the committee that has been formed in Baghdad -- committee on [Article] 140.

By the way, the majority of the members of the committee are ministers in the Iraqi government. The prime minister [Nuri al-Maliki] declared many times, "It is my duty to implement the constitution and 140 is part of the constitution."

RFE/RL: There is a committee in the Baghdad parliament that is working on amending some articles in the constitution, including Article 140.

Husayn: Yes, there is a committee that deals with a proposal of changing the article – changing the constitution. But changing the constitution must be within the mechanism of the constitution itself. As far as the Kurdish [bloc's position], we will not accept changing Article 140, because changing it means deleting it. Article 140 has to do with a time limit, and those who are talking about delaying it, in fact they are talking about deleting it. So, we will never accept that.

RFE/RL: Some people are blaming external forces for influencing the situation in Kirkuk...

Husayn: Kirkuk is part of Iraq -- as Irbil and other cities. It is part of Iraq. So, even if Kirkuk will be part of Kurdistan [region], we will stay part of Iraq. It is not up to foreign powers to decide the future of Kirkuk. It is up to the population of Kirkuk to decide the future of their city, and it is up to the Iraqi Constitution, which was voted on by 80 percent of the population of Iraq, including Article 140. So this is in an internal affair and has nothing to do with other [neighboring] countries.

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