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Tensions mounting between Baghdad, Kurds in northern Iraq

Special to WorldTribune.com

BAGHDAD — Iraq and Kurdistan were preparing for what could be a
bloody showdown in the north.

Officials said both the Baghdad government and the Kurdish Regional
Government were reinforcing positions around Kirkuk. Over the last 10 days,
KRG and the Iraq Army have been in a standoff for control of a disputed
town of Tuz Khurmatu.

Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s office warned Kurdish forces “not to change their positions or approach the (federal) armed forces,” Iraqi military spokesman Col. Dhia Al Wakil said.

“If they overstep the line, we will strike them,” KRG Deputy Defense
Minister Anwar Haji Othman said.

Officials said KRG has deployed up to 200 main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers to oppose the Iraq Army’s new Dijla Operations Command. The command was established to press Baghdad’s claim to areas sought by KRG, which has lobbied the West for independence.

The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has sought to
defuse tensions with KRG. Officials said KRG and and Iraq Army commanders were scheduled to convene in Baghdad on Nov. 26.

“Significant progress has been made on the issue through gathering the
parties to the crisis at the table of dialogue, and that is after their
agreement to determine the time and place to hold meetings,” Iraqi
parliamentary speaker Osama Al Nujaifi said.

But KRG President Massoud Barzani has rejected an invitation to meet Al
Maliki. Barzani said he was disappointed by Al Maliki’s failure to honor
Iraq’s constitution.

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