Iraqi gov't criticizes Kurds for troops build-up in disputed areas
"The military movements and the new troops built-up during the past few hours, in addition to the nature of statements by the officials of the region, do not show genuine desire (from the Kurds) for finding solutions," a statement issued by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office said.
The statement accused the Kurds of harassing the non-Kurdish citizens in the disputed areas by trying to displace some families from the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
"We call on the officials there (Kurdistan) to stop such acts and to be aware of the seriousness of such behavior," the statement said.
The federal government's statement came hours after reports said reinforcements of Peshmerga led by the son of Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani arrived in Kirkuk Monday.
Sherko Fatih, commander of Peshmerga in Kirkuk, told Iraqi media that the new troops are Peshmerga's special forces commanded by Mansour Barzani and they came to take the positions of another Kurdish force, not reinforcement troops.
The latest tension between the federal government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region has been running high after Baghdad established Dijla (Tigris) Operations Command to cover the disputed areas in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala and Salahudin.
The Peshmerga's presence in the disputed areas was a result of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's government after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The Kurds set up de facto control of areas in Nineveh, Diyala, Kirkuk and Salahudin provinces that they claimed were historically Kurdish, and wished to annex.
After rebuilding the post-invasion Iraqi army, Maliki in 2008 attempted to assert control of these areas by moving his troops into the provinces of Nineveh and Diyala, sparking a standoff with the Kurds.
In August 2009, the U.S. military tried to solve the problem and proposed a joint-patrol plan that the two sides agreed upon. Under the plan, only the Iraqi army's 12th Division is in Kirkuk and the 5th Division in Diyala.
However, forming of Dijla Operation Command, which is tasked with controlling the security file in both Kirkuk and the adjacent Diyala provinces, was seen by the Kurds as a breach to the plan and an attempt by Maliki to weaken the Kurdish influence in the disputed areas.
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