Kurdish leader lashes out at Iraqi premier, says he will not ‘surrender’

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Azzaman, December 2, 2012

The Kurds will not give in to demands by the central government to spread its authority over disputed areas, said Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in an interview with the newspaper.

Barzani said Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki was wrong to think that the Kurds would allow government troops in areas currently under the control of his own armed militias, known locally as peshmerga.

“All options are open and Kurdistan will not kneel but before God,” declared the Kurdish leader in the interview, the full text of which is expected to appear on Monday.

Tensions have mounted between the regional Kurdish government under Barzani and Maliki over the running of disputed territory which also includes the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

Both sides have massed troops and there are fears that the current tension might escalate to a full-fledged war between the sides.

Barzani accused Maliki of governing Iraq as “a dictator” and that the prime minister was thinking that he owned the country.

“If anyone thinks that the Kurds will surrender their rights is mistaken,” Barzani said.

Barzani even went further in his persistence on previous stands, saying that he would not only resist the presence of the national army in areas under his control but would also want to see some of latest army formations disbanded.

The remarks are the harshest by Barzani on what is ostensibly an ally in the government as the Kurds and Arab Shiites under Maliki’s government have traditionally being working together in the parliament.

The vitriolic is bound to exacerbate conditions and it is very unlikely that Maliki will accept Barzani’s conditions.

Barzani has angered Baghdad by taking unilateral steps among them deploying his armed militias in areas with mixed ethnicity and granting oil majors the right to develop oil fields in disputed territory.

Both leaders are said to be using the dispute to garner support for their otherwise corrupt and inefficient administrations.

Most Kurds, among them diehard opponents, who openly call for the removal of Barzani and his ruling family in Kurdistan, have rallied behind him.

Maliki seems to have garnered greater support for his tough stands vis-à-vis the Kurds among all Arab factions, Shiites and Sunnis, who are unhappy with what they say are Kurdish covetous intentions.

Arabs in the Province of Kirkuk, which the Kurds want to add to their territory, and other areas have voiced their support of Maliki.