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Some In Kirkuk Fear Kurds Will Replace U.S. Forces

KIRKUK, Iraq -- Turkoman and Arab politicians in the multiethnic Iraqi city of Kirkuk are concerned that Kurdish forces will fill the void after U.S. forces leave, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

Ali Mahdi, a spokesman for the Turkoman bloc on the Kirkuk provincial council, said that when U.S. forces withdraw on June 30 "we want the government to replace them with Iraqi forces from the middle and south because Kirkuk's security forces are predominantly Kurdish."

Muhammad Khalil al-Juburi, a member of the provincial council's Arab bloc, said that most of the Arab fighters fighting Al-Qaeda as members of the Awakening Councils "are stationed outside the city of Kirkuk and until all ethnic groups are fairly represented in the city’s security agencies and administration, we propose that Iraqi forces replace U.S. troops."

But Layla Hassan, a member of the Kurdish bloc on the council, said the Turkoman and Arab concerns are "unfounded" and deploying Arab forces from the south would be "counterproductive."

She added that "such a move would be unconstitutional as Kirkuk is recognized by all parties as a disputed area."

U.S. forces have often been called on to mediate ethnic confrontations in the oil-rich region.