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MIDEAST > Iraqi deputy PM: dispute with Kurds internal affair

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Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Hussain al-Shahristani (L) speaks with Oil Minister Abdul-Kareem Luaibi at the ministry’s headquarters in Baghdad March 5, 2012. REUTERS/Saad Shalash

Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Hussain al-Shahristani (L) speaks with Oil Minister Abdul-Kareem Luaibi at the ministry’s headquarters in Baghdad March 5, 2012. REUTERS/Saad Shalash

A dispute between Iraq’s central government and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region is an internal affair, a top Baghdad official said on April 26, in an implicit rebuff of U.S. efforts to broker a compromise between the two sides. He also urged Turkey not to interfere “in our internal affairs.”

“Of course there is American interest and goodwill to facilitate an understanding,” said Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani, Reuters reported. “But it was clear to all sides that any internal matter has to be discussed by Iraqis inside Iraq,” he told reporters after meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Oil is at the heart of the broad dispute between Iraq’s Kurds and Baghdad. Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani recently met Biden in Washington and has also visited Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, who has publicly chided Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for stoking the conflict. “We regret that we hear some of the comments that have been coming from Ankara,” he said. “We do not appreciate comments from others, or interference in our internal affairs.” However, Shahristani said he did not expect the dispute to harm trade, including oil exports, between the two neighbors. In addition, Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a powerful broker in the country’s coalition government, visited Kurdish north on April 26 in an effort to lower tensions. Al-Sadr met with Barzani in Arbil and offered an 18-point plan to solve the crisis, mostly through dialogue and political inclusiveness, Associated Press reported. The plan calls for having good relations with neighboring nations, but to not let them meddle in Iraq’s affairs. In a nod to Barzani, al-Sadr said Iraq’s oil must be used for the benefit of Iraq’s people, “and no individual has the right to control it without participation from others.”

Meanwhile, twin explosions ripped through a crowded cafe northeast of Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding 21, Iraqi officials said April 27. The attack late April 26 took place in the village of Garma, near the city of Baqouba in Diyala province.

April/28/2012

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