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Iraqi Kurdistan leader Barzani stands by challenging Turkey on Kirkuk
Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani on Tuesday insisted on continuing to argue that Iraqi Kurds would retaliate by interfering in Turkey if the Turkish government takes a step towards interfering in northern Iraq.
"Iraqi Kurds would not accept any foreign interference on the Kirkuk issue as it considers it an internal affair that should be resolved internally," Barzani said at the International Democracy Conference which was held in Arbil, reported the state-run satellite channel Al-Iraqiya.
Stating that his initial warning broadcast last Saturday by Al-Arabiya television was taken out of context, Barzani stated that his aim was to underline their commitment to to taking reciprocal action if Turkey interferes in Kirkuk.
"We will defend our rights and not submit to anyone except God," Barzani said, stating that it is hard to understand how a state stakes out a claim to interfere in other states' internal affairs while becoming disturbed when it takes a warning.
Underlining that the Kirkuk issue has to be resolved by Iraqis according to Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, Barzani said, "We do not say that Kirkuk will be for Kurds only, but it is an Iraqi city carrying Kurdish identity and all historical facts confirm this."
Stating that they want the normalization of every issue regarding Kirkuk, Barzani said that the world is to realize that Kirkuk is a city that has a Kurdish identity when that normalization takes place.
Mentioning also that Iraqi Kurds will not use the Iraqi flag, Barzani said that they will fly the Republic of Iraq's flag used after the 1958 revolution, since the current flag represents the Baath Party, with its three stars representing three goals: Unity, freedom and socialism.
Article 140 of the Iraq constitution stipulates that the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk can only be achieved by the return of Arabs, who settled in the city during the former Iraqi regime, to their hometowns after offering them compensation, and the return of expelled Kurds.
A census will follow the referendum, during which the people of Kirkuk will decide whether to remain a part of the Iraqi government or to join Iraq's Kurdistan region.
Kurds insist that the article be applied because there are former Baathists in most of the Iraqi institutions in Kirkuk, despite the toppling of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime.
ARA BASLIK: Kirkuki: Kurdish people stand behind Barzani
Meanwhile, Regional Kurdish Parliament Deputy President Kemal Kirkuki stated yesterday that all Kurdish people in northern Iraq stand behind the statements of Barzani, and said, "It is necessary to show that it is a normal affair to react to anyone who is minatory."
Responding to the style of the statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kirkuki said, "A prime minister has to know where to stop and use well-mannered language."
Erdogan responded to Barzani's initial warning on Monday, saying Iraqi Kurds will pay a heavy price if they interfere in Turkey's southeast region. He said Barzani "overstepped the line" and said Iraqi Kurds could be "crushed" under their own words.