BAGHDAD (AP) – A Kurdish politician whose list won nearly a third of the vote in a volatile, ethnically mixed province in northern Iraq said Saturday his group will cooperate with Sunni Arab rivals if they respect Kurdish constitutional rights related to disputed territory.
Claims by Sunnis and Kurds over disputed territory in the northern Ninevah province have fueled significant violence in the provincial capital of Mosul. U.S. officials have called the city Iraq’s last major urban battleground in the war against al-Qaida and other Sunni insurgents.
The Kurds have pushed the Arab-dominated central government to hold a constitutionally mandated referendum on disputed territories in Iraq. The constitution contained a 2007 deadline for the vote, but it has yet to place, fueling growing tension between Baghdad and the Kurds, who govern a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq.
Muhsin al-Saadoun, whose Ninevah Brotherhood list won 12 of 37 seats on the provincial council in Jan. 31 elections, said Sunni Arabs must “respect the Iraqi constitution and the feelings and will of the Kurds.”
The Kurdish official’s statement came almost two weeks after a hard-line Sunni Arab whose list won 19 seats in Ninevah called for talks with the Kurds to pave the way for cooperation.
The Sunnis boycotted the last round of provincial elections in 2005, and U.S. officials hope their newfound political voice will help reinforce Iraq’s path toward improved security and stability.
Violence in Iraq has fallen to a five-year low, but periodic attacks continue throughout the country.
A bomb attached to a car in Saddam Hussein’s northern hometown of Tikrit killed a policeman Saturday, said a police official.
In Diwaniyah city south of Baghdad, gunmen killed a policeman in a drive-by shooting, said another police official.
Also Saturday, a roadside bomb in Baghdad wounded a local commander of Sunni volunteers who have been fighting al-Qaida, said a police official.
The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.