New Middle East by destroying not only Iraq unity, but also Arab unity, so that all should have good relation with Israel as a leader of Middle East.
Associaed France Press (AFP) 7/10/2006
Rice urges Kurds to work for peaceful, unified Iraq
by Sylvie Lanteaume
ARBIL, Iraq (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met the leaders of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, urging them to cooperate with Iraqi Arabs in building a peaceful and unified country.
Rice dropped in on Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani in Arbil, his northern capital, after an unannounced visit to the Iraqi capital Baghdad, which is in the grip of a brutal sectarian conflict.
"The Kurdish people will ... certainly be better served if Baghdad and its surrounding areas are stable and democratic," Rice told reporters at a joint press conference with Barzani.
"We had a very good discussion about the national reconciliation process and the vision of unified democratic Iraq that is stable, that is at peace and at peace with its neighbors," she said.
Grateful for US support in throwing off the yoke of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Kurds have put their long-cherished dreams of independence on hold while the Baghdad government struggles to rebuild the war torn country.
But separatist tensions are never far from the surface, and fierce rows have recently erupted over the banning of Iraq's national flag in the north and the Kurdish government's determination to develop its own oil industry.
Washington fears a Kurdish declaration of independence would accelerate the possible disintegration of Iraq and knows it would be bound to anger regional ally Turkey, which has a restive Kurdish minority of its own.
Kurdish leaders regularly warn that they will secede if the rights of their region -- a union of three Iraqi provinces which has been broadly autonomous since 1991 -- are trampled on by the Arab-led Baghdad administration.
This threat reared its head again last week, when the Kurds announced the development of a new oil field, amid complaints from the central government that it should be consulted before deals are signed with foreign firms.
Barzani's oil minister furiously rejected federal oversight of oil contracts, and repeated the threat to declare independence.
Rice tried to calm the oil row during her visit.
"Our view... which I think most Iraqis agree with, is that oil needs to be a unifying factor and not one that would help to make the country less unified," she told reporters late Thursday.
Barzani said after meeting Rice: "We are for a fair distribution of oil revenues for the Iraqis."
Meanwhile, officials in Baghdad confirmed that a Kurdish lawmaker in Iraq's national parliament had been kidnapped and murdered during Rice's visit, which came after Monday's breakthrough pledge by Iraq's political factions to work together to halt the bloodshed.
Rice met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and senior leaders from both sides of Iraq's bitter sectarian divide between Sunni and Shiite factions.
"The mass murders have shocked the people," Maliki said on Iraqi television, insisting that the reconciliation initiative was not reached under foreign pressure "but by the will of the Iraqis."
The violence convulsing the capital was in full evidence for Rice's visit, with 16 US soldiers killed since Monday. A rocket attack on the airport upon her arrival forced her military C-130 transport plane to spend 45 minutes circling the airfield.
Rice departed Arbil after a delay of more than two hours due to aircraft problems and headed to London for a meeting of six major powers on whether to urge the United Nations to slap sanctions on Iran over its suspect nuclear programme.
The Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, declared a total curfew Friday evening in the northern oil city of Kirkuk, shutting down entrances to the city for an undisclosed period of time, police said.
"This operation comes within the context of a new security being implemented by Iraqi forces in Kirkuk," said Captain Emad Jassem Khidr of Kirkuk police.
Police said they had collected 35 corpses over a period of 24 hours in Baghdad, mostly in the Sunni western half of the city.
The bodies bore the tell tale markings of Baghdad's grim sectarian war with signs of torture and bullet wounds to the head.