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Kurds Threaten To Pull Out Of Iraqi Coalition Government

Kurdistan Alliance members discuss leaving the coalition government.
Kurdistan Alliance members discuss leaving the coalition government.
BAGHDAD -- The Kurdistan Alliance will not participate in the new Iraqi cabinet unless the major Shi'ite parliament faction, the National Alliance, agrees to its "position paper" outlining 19 key demands, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

The Kurds attach great importance to signing the 19-point paper as it is tantamount to a government program, senior Kurdistan Alliance deputy Mahmud Othman told RFE/RL.

He said failure to sign the paper would be a serious setback to the political process, because in that case the Kurds would not participate in the government currently being formed.

Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki is expected to announce his government on December 23, two days before the deadline set by the constitution for doing so.

The Kurdish demands include key positions in the government; recognition of contracts signed by the Kurdistan region government with foreign oil companies but considered illegal by Baghdad; and a solution to disputed areas, above all, multiethnic oil-rich Kirkuk, under Article 140 of the constitution.

That article provides for overcoming the aftermath of Kirkuk's Arabization by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, a census in the province, and a referendum on joining or remaining outside the Kurdish region.

Othman said only one of the 19 demands was being reformulated, that which states that if the Kurdish ministers withdraw from the government, it shall disband or be dissolved.

But National Alliance parliamentary bloc member Saad al-Muttalibi told RFE/RL that no paper would be signed, and agreement on the Kurdish demands would be reached by consensus, as is generally the rule in Iraqi politics.

Muttalibi said the objection centered on the Kurds' demands that the National Alliance sign the paper, rather than on its contents.

Meanwhile, National Alliance parliamentary group member Hussein al-Safi told RFE/RL that the Shi'ite bloc would have 19 ministries in the new cabinet, including the oil portfolio and three state ministries without portfolio.

Kadhum al-Shammari, a member of the Sunni-backed Al-Iraqiyah parliamentary group, told RFE/RL that Al-Iraqiyah's overall share is 11 ministries, including the finance and defense ministries.

Shammari said negotiations were continuing on the Ministry of Higher Education, to which both Al-Iraqiyah and the National Alliance have laid claim.

Kurdish parliamentary bloc member Said Rasul said that the Kurds would have six or seven ministries, including foreign affairs.