Kurds Reject Baghdad's Autonomy Plan, Say Talks Will Go On
Jun. 30, 1991
SARDAWA, Iraq (AP) _ Kurdish leaders have turned down an Iraqi plan granting autonomy to their people, saying the proposed autonomous zone is not big enough and other conditions are not acceptable, officials say.
Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Front, an umbrella group of eight major Kurdish parties, said he would go back to Baghdad for more negotiations. He said the issue of control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk was still open to negotiation.
Barzani had been authorized by the leaders to negotiate and sign an autonomy agreement that would end decades of Kurdish revolution and subsequent oppression by the central government.
''We will tell the Iraqis that the preconditions are unacceptable,'' said Jalal Talabani, leader of the second-biggest group in the front, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
Both he and Barzani spoke Friday in interviews with The Associated Press.
The decision appeared to be a setback for Barzani, who had said after talks in Baghdad earlier this month that an accord was imminent. He said Friday that ''it still needs further discussion.''
It was unclear whether the Kurds' decision would slow the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops from northern Iraq, where they have been providing security for Kurds who fled to Turkey and Iran in April after a failed uprising.
The coalition forces were scheduled to leave Iraq by mid-July. But allied leaders are discussing positioning a rapid-reaction force on the Turkish side of the border to discourage Saddam Hussein from striking at the Kurds.
Barzani, who is also leader of the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party, said the Kurds mainly objected to the fact that an Iraq-proposed autonomous Kurdish zone would not include several Kurdish cities, notably oil-rich Kirkuk.
The Kurds already have agreed to let the central government handle the city's oil revenues.
''It may not be included in the autonomous region as such but I hope it will be run by a joint administration ... with the admission that it is a Kurdish city despite being outside of the autonomous region,'' Barzani.
Members of the Kurdistan Front also rejected Iraqi demands that the Kurds cut their ties with the West and side with Saddam's Baath Party against its enemies inside and outside Iraq.
The Iraqi proposal also keeps police authority in Saddam's hands, and requires anyone seeking political office to swear allegiance to the Baath Party, said Barahan Sali, a spokesman for Talabani's group.
''Such an agreement won't inspire the confidence of the Kurdish people. Unless they feel safe, it is not worth the paper it is written on,'' said Barham Sali, a spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the second largest Kurdish party.
Talabani said the Kurds were seeking greater autonomy and a new constitution to be drawn up by a freely elected parliament.
The eight parties met separately Saturday to discuss their own changes to the proposal. The Kurdistan Front leadership will meet again on Sunday to discuss a final draft, and when and with whom Barzani will go to Baghdad for new talks.
He said the rebels had sent word to Baghdad about their decision.
Meanwhile, 20 representatives of Iraqi and Kurdish opposition groups met in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and said they believed further talks with Saddam were futile.
Ahmed Jaafari, an official of the al-Daawa Party, said Saddam was trying to contain the conflict with the Kurds so he can quiet the Shiite rebellion in the south. Then he likely will go after the Kurds again, Jaafari said.