Ethnic clashes feared in Kirkuk

Aug. 19, 2008 at 3:15 PM

KIRKUK, Iraq, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- The United Nations says concern is growing in Kirkuk, Iraq, that changes in the city's current political arrangement could stir up dangerous ethnic clashes.

Baghdad University lecturer Amer Hassan al-Fayadh told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Networks Tuesday that it might be best for the Iraqi government to take a hands-off approach to the ethnically mixed northern oil city.

"I do believe that the best solution for Kirkuk is that it be run as a separate region … and letting its population determine its fate through a referendum, instead of one party imposing a solution," he said.

The Iraqi Parliament last month approved a power-sharing agreement that would equally share the seats on the Kirkuk ruling council, a move that is opposed by ethnic Kurds.

The New York Times reported from Kirkuk that while Kurdish-controlled security forces have thus far been able to maintain stability in the city, resentment has been on the rise in the city's Arab and Turkmen communities and sporadic ethnic violence has erupted.

One Arab resident told IRIN that while he had no quarrel with the Kurds in general, any move to seize Arab lands would certainly lead to violence.

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