Al-Maliki's description of Iraq as Arab country rankles Kurds

Al-Maliki's description of Iraq as Arab country rankles Kurds Arbil, Iraq - A Kurdish parliamentarian on Monday charged that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's description of Iraq as an Arab country was unconstitutional.

Al-Maliki told Arab leaders gathered in Doha, Qatar for the 21st Arab League summit that all Iraqis, regardless of their ethnicity or religion, were agreed that Iraq was an Arab country.

"Al-Maliki's statement ran contrary to the Iraqi constitution," Saad al-Barazanji, deputy head of the Kurdistani Alliance parliamentary bloc, told the Kurdish AKA news agency on Monday.

"No article of the Iraqi constitution identifies Iraq as an Arab country," al-Barazanji said.

Al-Barazanji's statements portended a brewing confrontation between Kurdish and Arab nationalists in Iraq.

Kurdish parties represent a critical component of al-Maliki's coalition. But control of Iraq's oil resources, particularly in the oil rich and ethnically divided city of Kirkuk, has been a source of friction between Baghdad and the Kurdish government in northern Iraq.

Many Iraqi Kurds hope to make Kirkuk, with its rich oil reserves, the future capital of an independent Kurdish state. Baghdad views the city, and its resources, as an integral part of Iraq.

Saddam Hussein's government in the 1970s attempted to "Arabize" the region by moving Iraqis from elsewhere in the country to the city and forcing Kurds to leave. (dpa)

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