President Barzani, Kurdistan Region Representatives Discuss Legislative Agenda for Upcoming Session of Iraqi Parliament

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President Barzani and Iraqi parliamentarians from the Kurdistan Region lay out the Kurdish position on the provincial election law, federal oil law, "status of forces" agreement, and the 2009 Iraqi budget in preparation for the upcoming session of the Iraqi House of Representatives (Iraqi parliament). The President also discussed recent events in Khanaqin.

As the Iraqi Parliament prepares to reconvene Tuesday, Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani met with members of the Iraqi parliament from the Kurdistan Region in order to discuss recent developments and the major issues ahead in the upcoming parliamentary session. Representing 58 of the 275 member Iraqi assembly, the Kurdistan Alliance and Kurdistan Islamic Union are the most well-disciplined and organized group in the assembly and will thus play a pivotal role in the upcoming debate over a new provincial election law, federal oil law, budget, and "status of forces" agreement with the United States.

The President stated during the meeting that the Kurds are "prepared to have elections in Kirkuk immediately," explaining that "if the elections for Kirkuk need to be postponed or other agreements sought, these must not be contrary to the clear implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution." Article 140 requires that a referendum be held in order to determine the final status of the traditionally Kurdish city within the federal system. During the last parliamentary session, Kurds were forced to boycott an unconstitutional provincial election bill that would have mandated power-sharing instead of allowing the people of the region to determine their own fate through the electoral process.

Seeking to move past any lingering sectarian divisions, President Barzani reiterated a firm commitment to extend a hand of friendship to all those prepared to work with Kurds toward a tolerant and just society in Iraq, regardless of their ethnic heritage or religious background. Last month, the President brought this same message of cooperation and compromise to the people of Kirkuk directly in an official visit to the city aimed at easing tensions.

In regards to the upcoming debate over the 2009 budget, the President dismissed those who are seeking to decrease the Kurdistan Region's percentage of the federal budget from 17% to 14%. Instead, the President insisted that the rightful Kurdish share is likely more, but the current benchmarks were set by a political decision rather than a census. Thus, he argued that the "17% share should continue to be allocated until a new census is held.

Then we will abide by any new percentages that are allocated [based on these findings]." The move to reduce the Kurdistan Region's budget comes at an odd time, given recent findings by an American Congressional investigation which found that the Iraqi central government had failed to spend most of its budget from the preceding year and that half of what was spent on reconstruction in the country came from the Kurdistan Region's resounding success in implementing public projects.

Also discussing recent tensions with Baghdad over Khanaqin, President Barzani shed new light on the issue. Explaining that during the 1991 negotiations demarcating the extent of the Kurdistan Region's authority with the Ba'ath regime, Khanaqin was seen even by Saddam Hussein to be rightfully Kurdish and thus, when the regime fell, the Kurdistan Region Guards were naturally invited by the new Iraqi government to provide security for the Jalawla region in which it lies. The President pointed to the fact that the 34th Brigade of the Kurdistan Guards had lost more than 20 soldiers in its successful effort to secure the area from terrorists.

Lamenting the fact that some sought to create a problem where there clearly was no dispute, the President extrapolated that "we consider the Iraqi Army our army and we are proud of it. But the Iraqi Army units that were dispatched to Jalawla and Qara Tapa [in the Khanaqin area] used Saddam-era slogans" and behaved badly toward Kurdish civilians living in the area.

The reason for their entry into the region was clearly politically driven, bringing into question the commitment to the rule of law and democratic arbitration of those behind the moves. Recognizing this fact, President Barzani expressed his desire for "all sides to commit to the Constitution and principle of partnership," continuing on to say, "We are for progress in Iraq but this progress cannot come at the expense of the Kurdistan Region." A future meeting has been set with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and other Kurdish leaders to discuss the events further.

In reference to the federal oil and gas law, the President pointed out that "in February of 2007, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government had reached an agreement [on the draft oil and gas law], but the Iraqi Shura Assembly [state council which oversees certain legislative matters] later decided to meddle in the draft law." Again expressing his commitment to an Iraq governed by law and democratic processes, the President argued in favour of implementing what the Constitution, ratified by around 80% of the vote, had already stipulated. In this case, the Constitution grants the regions the right to any new discoveries while the federal government retains revenue made from existing fields.

The meeting also touched on the "status of forces agreement (SOFA) between Iraq and the United States. President Barzani declared his desire to see the Multi-National Forces stay in the country at this stage, under an agreement that "respects the sovereignty of Iraq and is in the interests of the Iraqi people."

After the President's remarks, several members of the Iraqi parliament presented their propositions and a discussion took place on the intricacies of the group's platform. Participants in the meeting were members of the Iraqi parliament from the Kurdistan Alliance List and the Kurdistan Islamic Union List. Together these parties make up 58 of the 275-member Iraqi parliament. The Iraqi Parliament is due to reconvene after its summer recess on Tuesday, September 9, 2008.

For interviews or comments related to this press release, please contact:
KRP Chief of Staff, Fuad Hussein
Tel: 00964 750 4985500
Fax: 0044 207 900 2888
Email: diwan(at)krp.org
http://www.krp.org

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