Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thousands of Kurds protest in northern Iraq over regional election law


Thousands of Kurds turned out on the streets of northern Iraq’s Arbil city on Tuesday to protest a provincial election bill that could impact the region’s energy ownership.

Waving the Kurdistani national flag, the protestors thronged at the doors of the parliament building in Arbil, capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

‘Those who pushed the law are the same as Saddam Hussein,’ said Ahmed Salim, 59, referring to the dictator toppled in the U.S. invasion in 2003.

‘We want to live in our country freely, independently, away from sects, because we are all Iraqis. We want to live under our flag,’ said the pensioner.

The protest comes amid concerns over how a provincial election law will play out in the region.

The Kurdish administration is keen to ensure its booming oil sector remains in Kurdish hands.

The key dispute in the legal wrangle is over how to constitute the provincial council of Kirkuk, the northern oil province claimed by both the Arabs and Kurds.

Iraq’s 275-member parliament initially adopted the provincial election law last week that would have allowed provincial polls scheduled for October to proceed.

The bill has faced strong opposition, with major blocs in parliament — mainly Kurds and some Shiite ministers — storming out in protest and leaving only about 140 MPs to vote.

The controversy prompted the Presidency Council, which includes President Jalal Talabani and two deputies who have the right to veto bills, to reject the draft and return it to parliament for reworking.

A 48-hour deadline to rework the draft ends Wednesday and Kurds fear that a new draft would still fail to address their concerns.

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