Sunday, April 08, 2007

Perspective: Plan to move Arabs from Kirkuk divides Iraqi politicians

A sabotaged oil pipeline burns near Kirkuk

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi politicians are divided over a government plan to relocate thousands of Arab families from the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk, a move that's likely to hand greater control of the city to Iraq's Kurdish minority.

The plan, announced on Saturday, aims to redress one of the lingering scars left by Saddam Hussein's Baath Party - the forced removal of tens of thousands of Kurds from Kirkuk, where they were replaced by Arab families from Iraq's southern provinces.

But critics say it could hasten the partitioning of Iraq along religious and ethnic lines. Kirkuk is due to vote later this year on whether to join the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, and some Arabs say the government plan would cement the Kurdish voting bloc in one of Iraq's largest and most contested cities.

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