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Rice Visits Baghdad, Kirkuk, to Boost Iraq Reconciliation Efforts

By VOA News
18 December 2007

 

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to press Iraqi leaders to speed up national reconciliation.

Rice began her previously unannounced visit to Iraq earlier Tuesday, in the northern city of Kirkuk. She urged politicians there to help ease tensions between the oil-rich city's three main ethnic groups: Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.

Her trip coincides with a reduction in violence in Iraq and calls by U.S. officials for Iraqi leaders to capitalize on the lull by working toward political reconciliation.

The Kurdish Regional Government is considering a proposal to delay a referendum on Kirkuk's future. Lawmakers said Monday it would be difficult to hold the vote by December 31, as mandated by the Iraqi constitution.

Kurds want the city included in their autonomous region, but non-Kurdish residents fear they could be forced out if Kirkuk comes under Kurdish control.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq said Saturday that there is general agreement between the prime ministers of Iraq and Iraq's Kurdish region that a referendum is needed urgently.

But, the U.N. mission said it was told that postponing the referendum by six months would give Iraqi authorities a chance to address technical issues.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.



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