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Withdrawal of Kurdish forces from Khanqeen asserts security in Diala-MP.

Byline: AM (I)/SR

BAGHDAD, Aug. 13 (VOI) - A lawmaker from the main Sunni bloc on Wednesday said the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from ethnically-mixed areas in Diala would help assert stability in the volatile province.

Kurdish forces are refusing Iraqi Defense Ministry orders to pull out of Kurdish-populated areas of ethnically divided Diala province where they have been deployed for the past two years.

"The withdrawal of Kurdish troops from Khanqeen town would boost trust building among Iraqi denominations and would help reach better a understanding to end current tensions in Iraq," MP Nour al-Din al-Hayali, from the Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF), said in a statement received by Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).

The so-called Peshmerga troops made up of Kurdish former gunmen have never been integrated into the Iraqi army and continue to operate under the command of the autonomous regional government that holds sway in Iraq's three far northern provinces.

But with U.S. backing, the disciplined and battle hardened troops have deployed elsewhere in Iraq to support the army in its efforts to rein in armed groups, particularly those loyal to al-Qaeda.

The deployment in northern districts of Diala province is a sensitive one as they are Kurdish-inhabited and Kurdish leaders have long sought to incorporate them in the autonomous region.

Commanders have long regarded Diala as Iraq's most dangerous province. Its volatile ethnic mix of Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Shiite and Sunni Kurds has proved fertile ground for insurgents loyal to al-Qaeda who have made it one of their main strongholds.

Since July 29, mainstream Iraqi security forces have been engaged in a major offensive against al-Qaeda in the province involving 50,000 soldiers and police.

Diala province is just one of a number of areas where longstanding Kurdish claims have drawn opposition from their non-Kurdish neighbors.

Concerns among Arabs and Turkmen about Kurdish claims to the northern oil province of Kirkuk was the main factor behind the Iraqi parliament's failure to adopt a provincial election law in time for polls to go ahead as planned in October.

The Sunni lawmaker called for Kurdish forces to "withdraw Peshmerga and Asayesh (Kurdish intelligence service) from Ninewa province."

The Kurds have also historically laid claim to parts of Nineveh, the province centered on the main northern city of Mosul.

Earlier, a Kurdish forces source said the Iraqi army entered and deployed its troops in Qara Taba district of Khanqeen town. The Kurdish commander noted Iraqi army ordered Kurdish troops to withdraw in 24 hours, but they refused to do, citing ongoing threat to Kurdish residents' areas as a reason.

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Publication:Aswat al-Iraq (Erbil, Iraq)
Date:Aug 13, 2008
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