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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Kurds map out post-Saddam future
Kurdish guerrilla
Kurdish guerrillas control parts of Iraq

As the likelihood of a US-led campaign to effect a "regime change" in Iraq increases, the Kurds are formulating their vision and strategy for the country post-Saddam Hussein.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have been ruling two-thirds of Iraq's Kurdish region for the past 11 years, outside Baghdad's control.

We are not interested in changing a dictator for another one

Dr Barham Saleh, PUK
The Kurds are seen as key players if there is any US-led campaign in Iraq - either as part of the campaign against Baghdad or as a safe haven for fleeing refugees if the war starts.

But the Kurds have been wary of taking any steps or declaring any positions before receiving "concrete guarantees and assurances" of their place in a future Iraq.

Kurdish vision

"This is the very first time in our contemporary political history that we are articulating our vision for what we want," said Barham Saleh the head of the PUK-led administration in Sulaymaniyah.

Iraqi oil worker
A future federal government would control Iraq's oilfields

"We are not interested in changing a dictator for another one," he added.

"We want a democratic and federal Iraq, in which the Kurds can live as first class citizens and as full partners to other Iraqis in the government."

Despite their division on a number of issues, the Iraqi Kurds seem to be united on their vision for the future.

In a recent address in Irbil, the head of the KDP-led administration, Nechirvan Barzani said: "Many times we get accused of wanting to create a Kurdish state or separate ourselves from Iraq.

"Kurds' rights can be realised within the framework of a democratic and federal Iraq."

Democracy

A democratic Iraq seems to be at the core of the Kurdish agenda.

Kurdish strategy seems to have shifted from confining themselves to the Kurdish region to being "full partners" in the running of the country

Historically, successive Iraqi governments signed deals and gave promises of rights to the Kurds, but these were quickly revoked for various reasons.

Mr Saleh said that if the international community - including the US - wants a stable Iraq at peace with its neighbours, they should support the Iraqi people to bring about a democratic and representative government.

Federalism

The KDP has drafted a proposed constitution for Iraq.

It proposes a "Federal Republic of Iraq" consisting of two regions - an Arab one and the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

The KDP leader Massoud Barzani says the proposal is open for discussion. But, he says, "the one thing that is not negotiable is the principle of federalism".

The document states that each region would have its own constitution and a freely elected president and parliament, with powers ranging from taxation and internal security to initiating international relations.

It also details the relationship between the Kurdish region and federal authorities in Baghdad, where a federal court, an elected assembly and president would reside.

The federal authorities in Baghdad would have the power to:

  • Declare war and make peace
  • Decide foreign policy
  • Sign international treaties,
  • Set general economic policy,
  • Control Iraq's oil wealth and nuclear energy programme
  • Issue federal legislation.

The federal parliament would comprise an assembly of representatives, with members elected from all over Iraq, and an assembly of the regions, with equal number of representatives for each region.

Presence in Baghdad is also viewed as important. They believe their problem will not be solved until "the problem of Iraq" is solved, according to Mr Saleh.

The Kurds' strategy seems to have shifted from confining themselves to the Kurdish region to being "full partners" in the running of the country.

See also:

29 Jun 02 | Middle East
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