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Kurdish President Criticizes Baghdad's Oil Policy, Appeals For European Aid

President Masud Barzani attends a meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels on November 10.
BRUSSELS -- The president of Iraq's Kurdish regional government (KRG) described to European lawmakers on November 10 the differences his government has with the Baghdad government, RFE/RL reports.

Masud Barzani spoke before the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, noting disagreements his government has with Baghdad over the rights and profits from oil and gas reserves, much of which are in the KRG.

Barzani also complained that the Iraqi Finance Ministry controls Kurdistan's share of the Iraqi budget -- 17 percent of the total -- and uses it "at times as a weapon" in the ongoing struggle over revenue distribution.

He said he wants revenues collected by Bagdad to be forward directly to the Kurdish budget because "Baghdad's policies have failed, ours [have] not."

Barzani also spoke generally of the investment opportunities that await European investors in Iraqi Kurdistan. He said the relative security of the Kurdish region means it "could be the West's gateway to Iraq," and he called for further European development assistance.

In addition, Barzani spoke positively of the latest steps by Turkey to deal with its ethnic Kurdish population.

He added that the recent Iraqi electoral law will change the country's political map in ways that are difficult to predict. But Barzani warned that a "totalitarian ideology remains in the minds of many people" and a return of that ideology in Iraq "would be a catastrophe."

Barzani, 63, was first elected KRG president in 2005 by the regional parliament. He was reelected president by the citizens in the region
in a direct vote in July.