15 February 2005

1. "Armenian Genocide: Turkey To Target At Orhan Pamuk", Turkish papers and scientists declare the famous novelist a traitor because of his statements about killed Armenians and Kurds.

2. "We're still living in Dec. 17", Turkey is waiting on Cyprus and the Kurdish issue.

3. "Fiction or not, the tale of future war with US stirs Turks", sure it’s fiction. But many Turks see fact in anti-US novel.

4. "Turkey's Kurdish crossroads", Kirkuk is on the cusp where most of Iraq's Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen ethnic factions and Sunni, Shia and Christian sectarian divisions meet. The surrounding province of Kirkuk has huge oil reserves. A microcosm of Iraq's problems, Kirkuk is often cited as a likely flashpoint of civil war. Is such a clash inevitable? Not necessarily.

5. "Poll success fuels Turkish fears over Kurdish independence", Kurdish successes in Iraq’s elections, notably in the disputed oil centre of Kirkuk, have heightened Turkey’s worries about a future Kurdish drive for independence and Iraq’s consequent territorial disintegration.

6. "Kurds Celebrate Their Strong Second-Place Showing", Kurdish leaders said that uncertified election results released today show that the Kurds, harshly persecuted under Saddam Hussein, have as much right as Arabs to wield power in the new Iraq and that tough bargaining for such power will now begin in earnest.

7. "US Troops Prepared for Violence in Kirkuk", United States troops were braced for violence in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Monday after a strong showing by Kurds in provincial elections threatened to upset the city's delicate ethnic balance.

8. "Clashes between Kurds and Iranian security forces during week of revolution anniversary", thousands of people flooded the streets of Mahabad (northwest Kurdistan province in Iran) this morning, clashing violently with State Security Forces after days of gas, water, and electricity interruptions.

1. - Armenian Daily - "Armenian Genocide: Turkey To Target At Orhan Pamuk":

Turkish Papers and Scientists Declare Him Traitor of Nation

15 February 2005

The Swiss Tagesanzeiger published the interview given by Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist, in its February 6 issue. It’s worth reminding that the Turkish novelist emphasized the necessity to publicly speak about the tragic events that took place in the past and added: "30 thousand Kurds and 1 million Armenians were killed in Turkey. Almost no one dares speak but me, and the nationalists hate me for that."

The statement made by Pamuk aroused indignation in Turkey and he became the target of almost all Turkish newspapers that condemn him of treason.

For example, Vatan newspaper touched upon the statement of Pamuk in "Is the Freedom of Speech Is Also Freedom of Treason?" article, while the article published in Aksham is entitled "Why Does Pamuk Hate?"

Hyurriet called Pamuk "the black writer" in the article by Fatih Altay. The newspaper calls him a liar, emphasizing that his approach is that of an enemy. Hyurriet called the writer "a miserable creature," adding that they even don’t want to waste their hatred on him.

The Turkish scientists join the Turkish press in making Orhan Pamuk a target for criticism and hatred. In order to comment Pamuk’s statement, Gazete Vatani turned to Tokamesh Atesh, professor at the Istanbul University, who called this statement a huge drawback for the novelist, adding that the history shouldn’t be analyzed like that. Professor Bahaddin Yediydez accused Pamuk of ignorance and said: "There is not a single country in the world where the state authorities do not interfere with the rebellion of a separate ethnic group."

Professor Hikmet Ozdemir, head of the Armenian Studies Department at the Turkish Union of Historians, threatened to refute the "unfair" statement of Pamuk scientifically. At the same time, he emphasized that he, as a scientist, can’t seriously treat Pamuk, saying that his statement about the massacre of 1 million Armenians is a "great lie."

Halil Inaljek, professor at the Bosphorus University, accepting the worldwide fame of Pamuk, condemned him of making an irresponsible statement against the Turkish state and the Turkish nation.

Perhaps, only Halil Berktay, professor at Sabanj University, supported Pamuk describing him as a fair intelligent and pointed out that he told the truth. Berktay added: "In 1915-16 about 800 thousand or 1 million Armenians were killed for sure. I don’t know how many Kurds were killed in the Southeast of the country. But, I think it is quite possible that the number of the killed Kurds amounted 30 thousand."

It’s worthless to comment on the response of the Turkish press and the scientists to the statement made by Orhan Pamuk. We just want to inform our readers about the confrontation, so that the Armenian society can response the anti-Armenian statements of the dregs of society that have to unfold Turkish-Azeri propaganda in Armenia. At the same time, we want to tell the public, culture and political figures visiting Turkey that they shouldn’t mix the tolerance in issue of the difference in the opinions with joining their voices to the Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide.

2. - Turkish Daily News - "We're still living in Dec. 17":

15 February 2005 / opinion by Mehmet Ali Birand

No one can start a task as enthusiastically as us Turks.

When we Turks decide to do something, nothing can stand in our way. Nothing distracts us from our goal. Others may think we are going to be late or that the task at hand will overwhelm us, but Turks can usually surprise everyone and produce a result.

Afterwards, we Turks fall asleep, exhausted by the energy it took. We have a saying: “Starting a task like a German, (calculating, careful and methodical) and finish it like an Englishman (calmly and thinking of the long term objective.) We usually think of ourselves as closer to Germans in the way we start a task, but we admit that we never finish it like an Englishman.

This is exactly what is happening in Turkey's relations with the European Union.

Recently, I asked a European Commission official who was visiting Turkey for his opinion on our progress. He told me, “Birand, Turkey, in its entirety, is still living [like nothing has happened since] Dec. 17, 2004.”

When I reflected on what he had said, I realized how true-to-life the official's perceptions were.

He continued: “No new developments have taken place. Even those at the top are just repeating the same statements they were making on Dec. 17.”

And he's right.

Turkey achieved one of its most important objectives last December when it received a date to start EU membership negotiations. What happened next? Please tell me, what has the government done since Dec. 17? Were the negotiators appointed? No.

Did they formulate the mechanism they will follow during the negotiations? Or did they start preparing for the laws that are necessary? No.

Have they decided on a strategy to follow? No.

The EU acquis represents the complete set of laws, decisions and agreements signed by the EU since its establishment; it will become enshrined as part of our law if we become a full member. Has the acquis been translated? No.

The points I listed above are the responsibility of the government. What about the private sector?

What do you think the universities and nongovernmental organizations have done? Have they inquired about the developments and initiated their plans? No.

So, I have to ask, what are we waiting for?”

Are we considering doing nothing until Oct. 3 and only starting everything once we're seated at the negotiating table? If that is the case, those countries that are trying very hard to delay our membership, especially France, need not fear. Our attitude means that we are doing their bidding without any causing them trouble.

We're also waiting on Cyprus and the Kurdish issue

I wonder if you've noticed, but the same attitude has infected our policies towards the Kurdish, Armenian and Cyprus problems.

We are currently in a strange period of passivity.

If we were taking important steps to prepare or collecting opinions and devising a national strategy, I could understand this inactivity. However, nothing is being done. If this continues, all hell will break loose when the time to negotiate finally arrives. We will be forced by foreigners to take the necessary steps. Then the public perception will be, “Europe ordered us to make these changes and we simply did as we were told.” No one will understand that we only had ourselves to blame.

Nothing has been done on the Kurdish issue since 2003.

And on the issue of Cyprus, we are still at the same stage we were at last April when the referendum was held.

The Armenian problem is a seen as merely a nuisance, and no one else besides a few academics and nongovernmental organizations seems to be interested. It seems easier to hide behind the old nationalist slogans.

Wake up, you've fallen asleep:

I would like to make this wake-up call to all those who occupy relevant posts.

This is really the time to wake up. It might even be considered late. If things continue as they have up till now, the excitement we feel for European entry may wither and we will face paying a huge price.

There are only seven months left until October. It's very hard to do all that's necessary in seven months. Everything may not be finished by Oct. 3, but the process should be started now. The people need to be reminded about the extent of the social transformation necessary and the state needs to begin tackling the important problems. Turkey should not waste this historic opportunity.

3. - The Christian Science Monitor - "Fiction or not, the tale of future war with US stirs Turks":

Sure it’s fiction. But many Turks see fact in anti-US novel.

ISTANBUL / 15 February 2005 / by Yigal Schleifer

The year is 2007. After a clash with Turkish forces in northern Iraq, US troops stage a surprise attack. Reeling, Turkey turns to Russia and the European Union, who turn back the American onslaught.

This is the plot of "Metal Storm," one of the fastest- selling books in Turkish history. The book is clearly sold as fiction, but its premise has entered Turkey’s public discourse in a way that sometimes seems to blur the line between fantasy and reality.

"The Foreign Ministry and General Staff are reading it keenly," Murat Yetkin, a columnist for the Turkish daily newspaper Radikal, recently wrote. "All cabinet members also have it."

Several other columnists have also written about the book, suggesting its depiction of a clash between the two NATO allies could become a reality. Serdar Turgut, the editor of Aksam, one of Turkey’s largest newspapers, penned a recent column that took one of Metal Storm’s premises - that members of Skull and Bones, the secret society that President Bush joined as a student at Yale, has taken control of US foreign policy - and presented it as fact.

"Powerful people, nearly all of whom are members of a secret ’sect,’ are aiming to bring a radical change to the order of the world," Turgut wrote.

He further suggested that the US military is developing technology that would allow it to trigger earthquakes, something that will eventually be used against Turkey.

The book has arrived at a time when anti-American sentiments are running high in Turkey. A BBC poll taken last month found that 82 percent of Turks believe Bush’s reelection made the world a more dangerous place, the highest figure in any country surveyed. During her recent visit, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed concern about the issue to Turkish officials.

Meanwhile, there is increasing tension between Ankara and Washington. Turkey is frustrated with what it claims is US failure to take military action against the separatists of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who are holed up in the mountains of northern Iraq. The country is also concerned about events in the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where the Turks say Iraqi Kurds are staging a power grab as a prelude to the creation of an independent Kurdish state, something it views as a serious threat.

Egemen Bagis, a member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and chairman of the Turkey-US friendship caucus in parliament, says the unpopular war in neighboring Iraq continues to fuel anti-American feelings.

"This public feeling, this public tension, is not any different from what is happening in other European countries or other Middle Eastern countries," Mr. Bagis says.

But American officials in Turkey say the kinds of things they are hearing represent something different.

"It’s not an isolated phenomenon - you see it all across Europe, but it is more of an exaggerated phenomenon here," says one US official. "I’m not sure in Europe you would see the manifestations that you see here, like this book."

Adds another US diplomat, who declined to be named: "Just like sex sells, anti-Americanism sells right now. Unfortunately, it’s nothing to laugh at, because it’s damaging to both American national interest and to Turkish national interests. We’re really pulling our hair out trying to figure out how to deal with this."

A particularly striking feature of the book - one that may say a lot about recent changes in Turkish opinion - is who saves Turkey from defeat: Europe and Russia.

For decades, the European powers were derided in Turkey as the ones that tried to carve the country up after World War 1. Russia, which invaded Turkey in the early 20th century, had always been viewed here with great suspicion. In fact, the potato-and-mayonnaise concoction known in most places as Russian salad is called American salad here.

"In all the surveys, increasingly we see people more anti-American. What is different today is that they are less anti-European," says Ali Carkoglu, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Sabanci University.

"Back in the [19]70s, they wouldn’t even trust the Europeans," he says. "The change has been very swift."

For Metal Storm’s two authors, Burak Turna and Orkun Ucar, success has come swiftly. This is their first published work.

Sitting in an Istanbul cafe, the two say the novel came out of the conviction that the battle they depict is a strong possibility. The book, they say, is their contribution to Turkey’s well-being.

"Everybody was thinking about a clash like this in their subconscious," but it was articulated by Metal Storm, says Mr. Turna, who used to work in an US-owned textile company but now devotes himself full-time to writing.

Turna does not see the book as fiction. "From our point of view, it’s a philosophical and scientific calculation," he says. "It’s more than a novel."

4. - The Globe and Mail - "Turkey's Kurdish crossroads":

15 February 2005 / by Michael Gunter*

Kirkuk is on the cusp where most of Iraq's Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen ethnic factions and Sunni, Shia and Christian sectarian divisions meet. The surrounding province of Kirkuk has huge oil reserves. A microcosm of Iraq's problems, Kirkuk is often cited as a likely flashpoint of civil war. Is such a clash inevitable? Not necessarily.

True, the Iraqi government and the Kurds have never been able to agree on whether Kirkuk should be included in a Kurdish autonomous region. The legendary Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani reportedly declared in the early 1970s that, even if a census showed that the Kurds were only a minority in Kirkuk, he'd still claim it. Saddam Hussein tried to settle the issue by expelling many of the indigenous Kurds and Turkmen, and "Arabizing" the city and province by moving in Sunni and Shia Arabs from the south.

The seemingly uncompromising position that today's main Kurdish leaders, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, seem to be taking on Kirkuk's becoming part of Kurdistan is at least partially a result of their fear of losing control of the Kurdish "street," for whom Kirkuk is the Kurdish Jerusalem. In a stunning victory for the Kurds, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq authorized some 72,000 of them to return to Kirkuk and vote in last month's election. The result: a resounding Kurdish victory in the Kirkuk provincial election.

Fortunately, Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani realize they must compromise, and have let it be known that they would be willing to share the oil reserves with the rest of Iraq, dividing the province of Kirkuk with the other groups, and adding only the city of Kirkuk to Kurdistan. As part of the post-election compromises between the first-place religiously sanctioned Shia list and the second-place Kurdish list, such a reasonable formula for Kirkuk might help prevent a clash between the various Iraqi groups. A willingness to share Kurkuk's oil with the rest of Iraq would also set a favourable precedent for the Kurds to share Iraq's newer and even richer oil resources in the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.

Neighbouring Turkey may present a more serious problem. Turkey fears that an independent or even federal state in Iraqi Kurdistan would incite Turkey's own restless Kurds to rebel. If the Iraqi Kurds are able to gain Kirkuk and its oil riches, it would greatly buttress their chances to create such a Kurdistan. Kirkuk's Turkmen inhabitants offer Turkey a convenient excuse to interfere. (Its military boasts it would take only 18 hours to reach Kirkuk if the Kurds harm the interests of the city's Turkmen population.)

Despite such bellicose rhetoric, Turkey is unlikely to attack the Iraqi Kurds. Such a rash act would amount to an attack on the United States, its NATO ally, which still holds ultimate power in Iraq, including Kurdistan and Kirkuk. Clashing with U.S. troops over Kirkuk would be a disaster for Turkey. When the Americans captured several Turkish commandos trying to infiltrate Kirkuk (allegedly to assassinate its new Kurdish governor) shortly after the invasion of Iraq, the point was made that Turkish military interference in Kurdistan would not be tolerated by the U.S.

In any case, Turkey's hopes to join the European Union prohibit any military move into Iraqi Kurdistan for Kirkuk. Most Turks would frown on anything that derailed the process. Last December, the EU finally gave permission for Turkey to begin the long-sought candidacy talks in the fall of 2005. Only fanatics would risk losing this for a military adventure in Kirkuk.

Even better, evolving EU membership for Turkey will further democratize Turkey, thus satisfying most Kurdish demands for more political and cultural rights. And EU membership would offer economic benefits to Kurds in both Turkey and Iraq, and ensure Turkey's own territorial integrity.

Finally, in return for Turkey's acceptance of a favourable compromise for the Kurds in Kirkuk, the Iraqi Kurds would have a powerful incentive not to antagonize Turkey by fomenting rebellion among Turkish Kurds, directly or indirectly.

Clearly, Kirkuk presents serious problems for all concerned. But a clash over Kirkuk leading to a civil war in Iraq or even a regional war involving Turkey is not inevitable.

* Tennessee political science professor Michael Gunter is the author of The Kurdish Predicament in Iraq.

5. - The Guardian - "Poll success fuels Turkish fears over Kurdish independence":

15 February 2005 / by Simon Tisdall

Kurdish successes in Iraq’s elections, notably in the disputed oil centre of Kirkuk, have heightened Turkey’s worries about a future Kurdish drive for independence and Iraq’s consequent territorial disintegration.

With domestic pressure increasing on Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ministers have hinted at renewed military intervention. This is causing additional strains in Ankara’s relations with the US. Turkish concerns focus on the area around multi-ethnic Kirkuk, where the Brotherhood slate allied to the Kurdish Alliance of Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani won 59% of the provincial council vote. The Turkoman Front, representing a minority that Ankara has vowed to protect, took 18%.

Turkey ruled Kirkuk until 1923, and nationalists still regard it as Turkish territory.

Mr Erdogan has warned that Turkey will not stand by if Kurds try to realise their objective of including Kirkuk in the Kurdish autonomous region.

He complained last month that tens of thousands of Kurds had moved into the area since the war. Many want to reclaim land and property lost to the forcible "Arabisation" policy pursued by Saddam Hussein.

But Ankara protested yesterday that resulting "imbalances" had skewed the Kirkuk poll. "Some people are looking the other way while mass migration takes place," Mr Erdogan said, in a dig at the US. "This is going to create major difficulties in the future."

The issue has dominated the Turkish media for weeks amid reports of sporadic assaults and intimidation of Turkomans. Turkomans and Iraqi Arabs have vowed to resist Kirkuk’s assimilation amid talk of possible civil war.

"Kirkuk is the number one security issue and public concern right now," a Turkish diplomat said. "Kirkuk is a potential powder keg. For us it has special status. It is like Jerusalem. It belongs to all the people. We do not want to intervene in Iraq. But we have red lines - Kirkuk and attacks on ethnic minorities."

Other considerations are in play. Whoever controls Kirkuk potentially controls oilfields representing 40% of Iraq’s proven reserves. Such wealth could render an independent Kurdish state economically viable.

There are also widely-shared concerns that the Iraqi Kurds’ advances could inspire emulation by the Kurdish minority in south-east Turkey as well as among Kurds in Syria and Iran.

US reluctance to suppress 4,000 secessionist Kurdistan Workers party guerrillas exiled in north-east Iraq could tempt Ankara to do the job. The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, tried to calm things down in Ankara last week, reiterating Washington’s commitment "to the territorial integrity of Iraq". Kirkuk’s status should be decided by all Iraqis, she said.

Like the US, the EU would frown on any intervention, even though the western powers continue to oppose Kurdish independence. US military bases in northern Iraq are reportedly being discreetly reinforced.

The official Kurdish aim is fully autonomous status within a democratic, federal Iraq. One leading Kurdish politician, Hoshyar Zebari, recently criticised a petition seeking immediate independence. But the national election results have given the Kurds significant leverage and they may insist on Kirkuk as the capital of Kurdistan in return for supporting the new government.

Full independence remains the hope of many if not most Kurds. Even if they obtain the federal constitutional guarantees they want, and assuming old internecine feuds remain in check, sooner or later they may seek the freedom and self-determination that George Bush recently declared a universal right.

Kurdistan’s most likely president, Massoud Barzani, has already sounded like a head of state when he insisted in a TV interview that Kirkuk was a Kurdish city. "Turkey should not intervene in our domestic affairs," he said. "The result of such an intervention would be a disaster."

6. - The New York Times - "Kurds Celebrate Their Strong Second-Place Showing":

ALAHUDDIN / 13 February 2005 / by Edward Wong

Kurdish leaders said that uncertified election results released today show that the Kurds, harshly persecuted under Saddam Hussein, have as much right as Arabs to wield power in the new Iraq and that tough bargaining for such power will now begin in earnest.

The results indicate that the Kurds will be the most sought-after ally by various political groups as the groups jockey to form a new government.

The Kurdistan Alliance, the main Kurdish slate of candidates, got nearly 26 percent of the vote, or 75 seats in the 275-member national assembly, putting it firmly in second place. Kurds make up at least a fifth of the Iraqi population and, having been the targets of mass killings by Mr. Hussein, are considered the closest allies to the Americans in Iraq.

"This would show that the Kurds are an effective force in Iraq, and that Kurds are no longer second-class citizens in Iraq, and that Kurds have the right to participate in all posts and positions in Iraq," Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the two major Kurdish parties, said in an interview here in his mountain redoubt.

The strong second-place showing by the Kurds will give them the leverage to demand that a senior Kurd, Jalal Talabani, be installed as president of Iraq, Mr. Barzani said. The Kurds will also insist on taking top cabinet posts, keeping broad autonomous powers to govern their northern region and administrating the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk, where large numbers of Kurds were displaced by Arab settlers under Mr. Hussein's policies.

"It's our right," Mr. Barzani said of the Kurds' push for the presidency. "If you look at it democratically, how the list has done, it's number two in performance."

Mr. Barzani gave his assessment to two reporters within an hour of the announcement of the results, as his aides were still analyzing the numbers in their offices high above the wind-swept Kurdish plains. Thick clouds were moving in, threatening to cloak the mountain in another layer of fresh snow.

A two-thirds vote by the national assembly, which is charged with writing a permanent constitution, is needed to install the president and two vice presidents, who will then choose the prime minister and cabinet. The winner of the elections was a huge list of Shiite candidates assembled by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq. But that list, the United Iraqi Alliance, got only 48 percent of the vote, so the Shiites will need partners to form a coalition government.

Provided the Shiite list stays intact, the most obvious partner is the Kurdistan Alliance. Alternately, other groups, such as the slate headed by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, which got nearly 14 percent of the vote, could try to woo the Kurds into a coalition that would have enough power to block the Shiites.

In the last week, two prominent politicians, Dr. Allawi and Adnan Pachaci, a secular Sunni Arab who served as foreign minister in the late 1960's, have visited Mr. Barzani here in Salahuddin. The two came on separate occasions to discuss the formation of a new government, Mr. Barzani said, adding that he expects more visitors in the days ahead.

"Whoever comes, they're welcome," he said.

The Kurds have also created an "operations room" in Baghdad that is arranging meetings with different political parties, Mr. Barzani said. Four senior Kurdish politicians - including Barham Salih, the deputy prime minister of Iraq, and Rozh Shawees, one of two vice presidents - have been appointed to negotiate on behalf of the Kurds, he added.

Nawzad Hadi Mawlood, the governor of Erbil province and a senior member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said the Kurds "want an important place in the government."

"We want a Kurd as president or prime minister," he said. "This is our country."

The Kurdish leaders did say, though, that they thought as many as 300,000 Kurds may have been cheated of their right to vote because of election irregularities in the north. Kurds and Christians have been particularly vocal in complaining of a shortage of polling stations and voter ballots on Jan. 30 in some parts of the north.

Mr. Barzani said Kurdish officials will take a closer look at the election results and then decide whether to push their complaints with the Iraqi electoral commission. Electoral officials have said they will allow a challenge period in the next three days before declaring the election results official.

"Indeed a lot of manipulation has taken place," Mr. Barzani said. "On this issue of the challenge, we will consult among ourselves."

The two main Kurdish parties decided to run on the same slate in the national elections and to also cooperate in elections for the 105-seat Kurdistan Assembly, a regional parliament. In provincial elections, though, they competed against each other. Mr. Mawlood, the governor of Erbil, said the votes for provincial elections in Erbil might have been miscounted, and that the tally for his party might have fallen short of the true number by as many as 30,000.

In recent days, the electoral commission has been investigating possible vote fraud in Erbil.

But many Kurds in the city of Erbil appeared pleased with the overall election results.

"Now we can deal with the Arabs in Iraq," Mahmoud Abdul-Wahid, a retired schoolteacher, said as he sipped tea in a café by the old citadel. "We don't have problems with that."

Warzer Jaff contributed reporting from Erbil for this article.

7. - Reuters - "US Troops Prepared for Violence in Kirkuk":

KIRKUK / 14 February 2005 / by Gideon Long

United States troops were braced for violence in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Monday after a strong showing by Kurds in provincial elections threatened to upset the city's delicate ethnic balance.

"I think there'll be some ethnic violence here, I really do," said US Captain Mitch Smith, a company commander in the heart of Kirkuk, the most ethnically diverse city in Iraq.

"Before the elections there were concerted attacks on coalition forces and Iraqi security forces but I think the focus may have shifted now," he told Reuters.

"Rather than targeting us, I expect we might see the various groups in the city fighting among themselves."

Kirkuk's 850 000-strong population is split roughly three ways between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, with Assyrian Christians forming a minority of around three percent.

The Kurds regard the city as theirs, and many want it to become the capital of a federal Kurdish state within Iraq, or even an independent Kurdistan.

The Turkmen, who have close cultural and linguistic ties with Turkey, trace their arrival in Kirkuk from eastern Asia to the 11th century, and have no intention of leaving.

Many of the Arabs were forcibly moved here from the south by Saddam Hussein under his "Arabisation" programme of the 1980s, which aimed to strengthen his hand in this oil-rich region.

Until now, the city has been relatively peaceful, in part because no one group has a majority or a monopoly on power.

But the Kurds won 59 percent of the vote in elections to the regional assembly, prompting fears among some Arabs and Turkmen that Kurdish parties will dominate local politics in the city at the expense of others.

8. - Iran Focus - "Clashes between Kurds and Iranian security forces during week of revolution anniversary":

THERAN / 13 February 2005

Thousands of people flooded the streets of Mahabad (northwest Kurdistan province in Iran) this morning, clashing violently with State Security Forces after days of gas, water, and electricity interruptions.

According to local residents, household gas has been cut off in the town for the past four days, electricity has been out for more than 24 hours, and water was repeatedly cut off for several hours at a time over the past day.

Protestors gathered in front of government offices, complaining that there was extreme shortage of bread as bakeries could not provide them during the energy blackout.

Temperatures in Mahabad have reportedly dropped to as low 15 degrees below freezing over the past few days.

The demonstration quickly turned into a mass rally and youths set fire to banners and poster celebrating the 26th anniversary of the revolution that toppled the monarchy and brought to power Iran’s turbaned clerics, residents reported.

Mahabad residents complained that the price of bread on the black-market had increased to 2,000 rials.

SSF agents, plainclothes police, and members of the Bassij (Iran’s paramilitary police) attacked the demonstrators with clubs and batons, arresting at least ten individuals, as residents shouted slogans against the Iranian regime.

Eye-witnesses reported that at least two plainclothes policemen were injured during the ensuing clashes.

Schools in Mahabad have been shut down during the blackout.