ISTANBUL - TDN with wire dispatches
A new U.N.-backed plan to resolve a deadlock over Iraq's provincial elections would let polls go ahead across almost all of the country but leave the fate of the disputed city of Kirkuk undecided, politicians said yesterday. The Iraqi politician's comment came as the Iraqi deputy parliament speaker said legislature is set to meet today again on Kirkuk issue to try to resolve disputes over the controversial election bill, eagerly awaited by the United States.
Meanwhile, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said on Monday night that Kurds supported the U.N.-backed plan. Others were unconvinced. Barzani has also sharply criticized a provincial election bill as a "conspiracy," deepening a political rift over Kirkuk.
"After the long talks we held it was clear for us that what happened on July 22 was a big conspiracy and very dangerous for the democratic and constitutional process of Iraq, in particular against the Kurds," Barzani said on late Monday, according to Agence France-Presse.
The proposal, presented at late-night negotiations between political leaders, could offer a way out of the impasse which has threatened to delay elections seen by Washington as a key test of Iraq's fledgling democracy, the politicians said.
"I believe this new proposal will be agreed by all the parties, because we have reached a dead end and there must be a new solution," said Iyad al-Samarrai, a top Sunni Arab lawmaker.
The elections are scheduled for Oct. 1 but their timing is in jeopardy after Kurds refused to back a law authorizing them and President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, vetoed it.
Kurds fear measures in the law would cost them control of Kirkuk, an oil-rich city they regard as their ancestral homeland and hope to include in their semi-autonomous region.
The U.N. plan, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, would allow provincial elections to go ahead in Iraq's 17 other provinces. Controversial issues surrounding Kirkuk would be left for another law later on.
United Nations officials declined to comment.
"This is a red line," said Fawzi Akram, a Turkmen loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who objected to postponing the vote in Kirkuk.
The Kirkuk controversy has hurt efforts to reconcile rival political groups. A suicide bomber attacked Kurds protesting in the city last week, killing more than 20 people.
The vetoed version of the law called for ethnic quotas on Kirkuk's provincial council and for Kurdish security forces in Kirkuk to be replaced by troops from other parts of Iraq, measures that Kurds oppose.
A vote in parliament scheduled for Sunday was scuppered when factions failed to reach a deal. A new vote was set for Tuesday with deputy speaker Khalid al-Attiya expressing hope that a compromise would be reached.
Parliamentarians say that if they fail to reach a deal in the next few days, the law could be postponed until after a summer recess, pushing the elections well into 2009.
Washington has pushed hard for a deal with U.S. President George W. Bush phoning political leaders in recent days.
The United States believes holding the elections is an important step to strengthen Iraq's democracy and give a voice to groups who refused to participate in the past.
Iraq has become far quieter over the past year, with violence falling to levels unseen since early 2004.