Last updated: 28 May, 2012

Iraqi Kurd politician warns of “ethnic cleansing”

A top Kurdish politician warned on Monday of Baghdad’s continued desire for “ethnic cleansing,” the latest in a series of attacks by Kurdish leaders on premier Nuri al-Maliki’s leadership.

The remarks from Kurdistan region prime minister Nechirvan Barzani, nephew of the autonomous region’s president Massud Barzani, come amid increasingly fractured ties between the Baghdad central government and the Kurdish region.

“Today, there are those in the Iraqi political field who want, with all the power, to keep the policy of Arabisation and ethnic cleansing,” Barzani said in a speech marking the return to Kurdistan of the remains of 730 Kurds killed by Saddam Hussein’s forces in his Anfal campaign in the 1980s.

He did not specify to whom he was referring, but the remarks appeared aimed at Maliki.

“The daily killing of Kurdish citizens and expelling them from their houses in Jalawla, Sadiyah and Kirkuk is the same policy of the former regime, but with new clothes and colours,” Barzani said, referring to three disputed areas claimed by the central government and Kurdistan.

Relations between the Kurdistan region and Baghdad have been tense in recent months.

Massud Barzani has said he opposes the sale by the United States of F-16 warplanes to Iraq while Maliki is premier, as he fears they would be used against Kurdistan.

He had previously accused Maliki of moving toward dictatorship, and said the premier aimed to “kill the democratic process” after the head of Iraq’s electoral commission was arrested for alleged corruption.

Baghdad and Arbil are also embroiled in a long-running row over oil revenues, and Kurdistan hosted Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who fled to the region after being accused of running a death squad in December, and declined to hand him over to Baghdad.