Kurdish president waiting for new Iraqi flag to be approved

Kurdish president waiting for new Iraqi flag to be approved
September 13th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Kurdish president waiting for new Iraqi flag to be approved

Kurdish president waiting for new Iraqi flag to be approved
Media: The Associated Press
Date: 13 September 2006

IRBIL, Iraq_The president of Iraq's autonomous northern Kurdish region on
Wednesday said that once the central government approves a new flag for the
country, he'll be proud to fly it.

Massoud Barzani set off a firestorm of protest among many political factions
in Iraq on Sept. 1 when he decided to replace the Iraqi flag with the
Kurdish one throughout the region.

But during a visit by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad he played down the
issue, saying that the Iraqi government needed to approve a new flag before
an Iraqi flag could be raised here.

When the new flag is approved, Barzani said "we will be proud to fly that
flag here as well."

He made the comments during a meeting with Khalilzad in this
Kurdish-controlled city about 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Baghdad.

Barzani's decision to lower the Iraqi flag had little meaning here since
almost the only flag seen in the Kurdish region _ even before the ban _ was
the green, white, and red-striped banner of Kurdistan with a yellow sunburst
in the middle.

On a political level, the move raised fears that Kurdish leaders would push
for the region to secede from the rest of Iraq, fears that Barzani

"I would like to stress our commitment to a federal, pluralistic Iraq,"
Barzani said.

The Kurdish leader said he supported the idea of federalism and the creation
of more autonomous regions similar to the Kurdish one.

Sunni Arabs oppose the measure because they believe it would break the
country into three distinct ethnic and religious regions, with the Shiites
controlling the oil-rich South, the Kurds in the equally oil-rich north. The
Sunni Arab provinces have few resources.

The idea of federalism is part of the Iraqi constitution, but before the
country can be turned into a full federation, it would have to be approved
by special legislation and in a referendum.

"In principle we are with federalism, and we believe that this is the best
solution, that would be in the interests of all the peoples of Iraq and to
not have a strong, centralized authoritarian government," Barzani said.

The U.S. Ambassador said he agreed with the Kurdish leader that a
centralized, totalitarian government has not worked in Iraq, referring to
previous regimes, but said whether a federation will improve security or not
depends on what type of federation is implemented and how it's decided upon.

"I think that if there is broad consensus among the political forces and
there is broad agreement in terms of what kind, when, how...if it's based on
a consensus, it could help with the security," Khalilzad said. "But if it
comes in a way that increases difficulties because there isn't agreement,
broad agreement among the forces, then it could be a complicating factor."

Khalilzad was in the region to kick off a four-day conference starting
Thursday in Irbil, to drum up investment and business partnerships for the
region. The ambassador said the United States is already spending U$500
million on reconstruction projects in Kurdistan, mainly education, water and
electricity projects.

The Kurdish region is much more economically stable and peaceful than other
parts of Iraq. The area has largely managed to avoid the sectarian violence
that has pitted Sunni Arabs and Shiite in other parts of Iraq.

After the 1991 Gulf War, Kurdistan became practically independent of the
Saddam Hussein government.

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