Middle East News
Iraqi, Kurdish premiers discuss differences in Baghdad (Roundup)
Dec 15, 2007, 16:11 GMT
Baghdad - Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Maliki and his Kurdish counterpart Negervan Barazani started official talks in Baghdad Saturday on differences between the central government and the Kurdish autonomous region, Voices of Iraq news agency reported.
'It has been agreed that the constitution should be the only system of governance by which we solve our pending problems,' al- Maliki was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the cabinet following the meeting.
'Dialogue and understanding alone should resolve all issues,' al- Maliki said.
No further details of the meeting were disclosed.
The key issues for discussion include local oil contracts signed by the Kurdish region, the region's budget and the controversial Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which decides the fate of oil- rich Kirkuk.
Before the start of the meeting, Mahmoud Othman, a member the Kurdistani Alliance, a bloc which has 53 seats in Iraq's Council of Representatives, told the press that Barazani's earlier meetings with al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and majority leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim were unofficial consultative ones. Saturday's talks were official, he said.
'There was a positive atmosphere that preceded the meeting and a genuine will on both sides to reach a common understanding. The talks are hopefully to bring about a fruitful outcome,' Othman said.
Earlier, Iraq's Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani had contested the legality of oil contracts sealed between the Kurds and foreign contractors, saying that when parliament approves the draft of the pending oil law, these contracts would be considered 'invalid.'
The Kurds fired back by saying that their region is self- governing and so has every right to finalize local deals with foreign oil companies.
Other conflicts involve differences on the budget for the region and the application of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution.
According to the article, the dispute over Kirkuk should be solved over three stages: normalization, demographic consensus and a national referendum.
The referendum decides the fate of the city: whether it remains an independent province or is annexed to the Kurdish region. These stages should be finalized before December 31, 2007.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur