"> Barham Salih: The current form of the U.S. - Iraq agreement is in the interest of Kurdistan

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Sign the petition for Iraq's three-region solution October 24, 2008 Barham Salih: The current form of the U.S. - Iraq agreement is in the interest of Kurdistan 

Rudaw - Interview by Alwand Omar 

between the Central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Rudaw:  Do you think the declaration of the Movement for Democratic Change by some members of the PUK and the kind of word-war between Mala Bakhtyar (a PUK politburo member) and Nawshirwan Mstafa, pose the threat that the internal disputes within the party may explode?   

Salih:  PUK is an active organization. Since its establishment there have been different opinions within the party and they all have been within the organizational framework and programs of the party.  Every issue that is within the boundaries of the internal regulations is taken valuably, but if someone violates the internal regulations then he will be punished according to the same terms.  

I think PUK is now faces important question; it is going to be only a party with past achievements or it will be a party for the future. PUK has been able to answer these questions and put forward some initiatives and proper programs during difficult times for the future of the Kurdish nation.  

PUK can be proud of its achievements, but the same time, as a member of the politburo of PUK, I agree with the fact that we have to respond to some important questions and possibilities. I am positive that PUK will answer all these questions by maintaining its unity and integrity and with the help of and institutions, its internal regulations, and the congresses that have been held (in the past). The unity of PUK is the key to our success and we should, it is something that we should not undermine. The unity serves to improve the situation in Kurdistan, the lives of people and it is in the interest of democratizing the Kurdish community and the authority in Kurdistan. 

I believe that PUK has undergone many ups and downs and ordeals in the course of its history, but it has overcome such problems. For me, the current rumors about PUK indicate that there is a dialogue going on within the party about the future, renewal, improvement, and strengthening PUK. I am quite sure that with its power and unity PUK will prevail over all these critical (issues). 

Rudaw:  According to the agreement between PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK) within the few coming months there should be some change in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cabinet. What is PUK’s plan for these changes? 

Salih : We have decided to keep the government of the Prime Minster Nechirvan Barzani, as it is until the next election is held. Then, of course, the elections will decide the composition of the new government, so it is too early to answer this question. Prime Minster Nechirvan Barzani is the head of the government he deserves to be supported so that he can succeed in his duties and introduce better serve his country.  

Rudaw:  Why do Kurds hasten to sign the security agreement between Iraq and U.S. while it contains no paragraphs about the security of Kurdistan? And why the Kurdish leadership didn’t add a paragraph about the security of Kurdistan to the agreement? 

Salih:  Comparing to others, Kurds are not in rush. By the end of this year, the United Nations’ mandate for the occupation forces in Iraq will end, so if the agreement is not signed by that time, there will be a legal vacuum because the presence of the U.S. and coalition forces would be illegally in Iraq. We, and the Kurdish leadership, believe that it is necessary for these forces to remain for a longer period to improve the security and protect the sovereignty of Iraq. This agreement, in its present form, clarifies the way to protect the constitutional system and democracy in Iraq. The constitution guarantees a democratic federal system in Iraq. Therefore, our interpretation is if the agreement protect and maintain the sovereignty of Iraq, then it will be in the interest of the people of Kurdistan.   

Rudaw:  In an interview with the Times (U.K), Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that the solution to Kirkuk province is to become an independent region. Don’t you think that this statement is against article 140 of the Iraqi constitution which says that the population of Kirkuk should decide on the fate of their province? 

Salih:  We say that the future of Kirkuk should be solved according to article 140. Of course, I, as a Kurd, would say that it is a fact that Kirkuk is part of Kurdistan and all the historic evidences support my claim and the census of the population would also prove that it’s a part of Kurdistan. But there are different views over this issue; the Iraqi Arabs and Turkomans have different views. We all live in the same country; we have to find a way out of this problem. This issue cannot be solved unilaterally, therefore the Iraqi constitution has article 140 to solve this issue. So I call on everyone to respect the constitution which guarantees our unity and Iraq’s territorial integrity. 

Rudaw:  Now that Maliki and some other Iraqi politicians publically oppose federalism and support a strong central government, do you expect that the negotiations between Maliki and Kurdish politicians reach a conclusion to put an end to the problems between Baghdad and Erbil governments? If the two sides did not come to a result, then what is the alternative? 

Salih:  We are committed with the constitution which is the reference to solve the disputes. According to the constitution the governing system of the country is a democratic and federal system that is why the regions, including Kurdistan region, are entitled specific authorities that no one can violate those authorities. 

Rudaw : What do you think about Turkey’s position in negotiating with Kurdistan region? Why the Iraqi government has not yet shown an appropriate stance against the trespassings and attacks on Kurdistan region by Turkey?  

Salih:  The Iraqi government demands respecting the sovereignty of Iraq and opposes any sort of military operation inside Iraq’s soil. Now that the negotiations with Turkey is going on to settle this problem, the interesting point is that it is the first time since a long time ago that Turkey exchanges views with Iraqi Kurdistan and has started relations with this administration. I hope we can reach a compromise that is in the interest of both countries and nations. At the same time, we emphasize that we do not want our land to be exploited for launching military attacks on our neighbors. We want to respect the sovereignty of other countries and they have to respect ours. 

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In this interview with Rudaw Dr. Barham Salih, the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and the deputy secretary of the Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK), says that different views have always been part of his party’s establishment but people who breach the internal regulations of the party will be punished.   Rudaw asked Dr. Salih questions about the internal disputes within PUK and the  issues 

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