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 Kurdish officials deny US demands to withdraw Peshmarga from Kirkuk

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Kurdish officials deny US demands to withdraw Peshmarga from Kirkuk  16.3.2011  

No one asked for withdrawal of Peshmarga Forces in Kirkuk

March 16, 2011

BAGHDAD/ERBIL, — A spokesman for the Kurdistan Blocs Coalition (KBC) said on Tuesday that only the Kurdish leadership will decide when to withdraw the Kurdish Peshmarga security forces stationed around Kirkuk, refuting rumors of U.S. intervention on the matter.

Muayyid al-Tayyib’s remarks follow a report from an official Kurdish source who preferred to remain anonymous yesterday saying that the U.S. had given the Peshmarga two weeks to vacate Kirkuk province.

Tayyib told AK news that the Peshmarga forces in Kirkuk do not constitute                    

Kurdish Peshmarga forces in Kirkuk
a threat to any other ethnic group, and their duty is to protect the governmental institutions in the province and protect the lives of civilians from acts of violence.

“The withdrawal of the Peshmarga forces from Kirkuk will be decided by the Kurdish leadership,” he said, “we were not informed of a U.S. request for the withdrawal of Peshmarga forces from Kirkuk in 15 days”.

Also Jabar Yawar, the speaker for Peshmarga Ministry of Kurdistan Regional Government, has announced that until now no one asked for the removal of Peshmarga forces in Kirkuk province,
www.ekurd.netpro-KRG Peyamner website reported.

Kurdistan’s Peshmerga Ministry undersecretary Anwar Haji, has also flatly denied receiving orders from the U.S. forces or Iraqi Defense ministry to withdraw its troops from the province.

The Kurdish Peshmarga forces were deployed in the multi-ethnic province in late February when the wave of demonstrations over the poor provision of public services and administrative corruption across Iraq became violent.

Although the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) maintained the forces were stationed near Kirkuk to protect the Kurds and other minorities in the province from insurgent attacks, their presence heightened tensions between the province’s three main ethnic groups.

Kirkuk’s Arabs and Turkomen said that the presence of the Kurdish forces violates the sovereignty of the federal government and demanded their immediate removal.

It is noteworhty that AKnews recieved a tip-off from an unidentified source in Erbil International Airport on Monday that the United Nations Special Envoy to Iraq Ed Melkert had landed in the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region to meet Kurdish leaders.

The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is one of the most disputed areas by the regional government and the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

The Kurds are seeking to integrate the province into the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region clamming it to be historically a Kurdish city, it lies just south border of the Kurdistan autonomous region, the population is a mix of majority Kurds and minority of Arabs,
www.ekurd.netChristians and Turkmen, lies 250 km northeast of Baghdad. Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional attachment to Kirkuk, which they call "the Kurdish Jerusalem." Kurds see it as the rightful and perfect capital of an autonomous Kurdistan state.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is related to the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk city and other disputed areas through having back its Kurdish inhabitants and repatriating the Arabs relocated in the city during the former regime’s time to their original provinces in central and southern Iraq.

The article also calls for conducting a census to be followed by a referendum to let the inhabitants decide whether they would like Kirkuk to be annexed to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region or having it as an independent province.

The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had forced over 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to "Arabize" the city and the region's oil industry.

The last ethnic-breakdown census in Iraq was conducted in 1957, well before Saddam began his program to move Arabs to Kirkuk. That count showed 178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and 10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians living in the city. 

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