BAGHDAD, Iraq, Apr 5 (NNN-NINA) – The provincial council of the ethnically mixed Kirkuk province of Iraq, voted Tuesday, in favour of a draft to hold a referendum, to decide the fate of the province whether to join the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan or remain as part of Iraq.

The decision by Kirkuk’s Kurdish-dominated provincial council was made, by the voting of majority of 26 members out of 41, the total number of provincial council, after the walkout of the Arab and Turkoman council members.

Almas Fadhil, a female Kurdish council member, said, “The decision to hold a referendum for Kirkuk to join Kurdistan region was adopted, by a majority of the council members.”

Fadhil demanded implementation of article 140 from the Iraqi constitution, which states that a referendum should be held, in the disputed areas between Baghdad and the Kurdish region, so that the residents could decide to join the region or be part of Iraq.

Article 140 of Iraq’s 2005 constitution calls for several steps to address the dispute, over the ethically-mixed Kirkuk and other disputed areas, including a referendum.

However, problems raised among the conflicting ethnicities, as Arabs and Turkmen favour a plan that the electoral law should use 2004 voter registry, as they accuse the Kurds of carrying out demographic change in the disputed areas, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, in the years after 2003, while the Kurds refuse the plan, accusing Saddam Hussein’s regime of displacing thousands of Kurds, who were replaced with Arabs, to make Kirkuk a predominantly Arab province.

On Mar 28, Kirkuk’s council voted in raising the Kurdish flag alongside the Iraqi flag, on the building of the provincial council, despite the withdrawal of Arab and Turkoman council members, who argued that the move is a pre-decision that Kirkuk is part of Kurdistan.

Four days later, the Iraqi parliament rejected the decision by the Kirkuk’s provincial council, after 186 lawmakers of the 328-seat parliament voted in favour of displaying only the Iraqi flag on Kirkuk’s buildings.

The parliament voting, this time, witnessed the walkout of Kurdish lawmakers before the vote.

In addition, Fadhil said that, Kirkuk’s council session also rejected the Iraqi parliament’s decision of raising the Kurdish flag alongside the Iraqi one over government buildings.

Disagreements between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been high for years, as the ethnic Kurds consider the northern oil-rich province of Kirkuk and parts of Nineveh, Diyala and Salahudin provinces, as disputed areas and want them to be incorporated into their semi-autonomous Kurdish region, a move fiercely opposed by the Arabs and Turkomans and by the Baghdad government.

Source: NAM News Network