Cleric tries to ease tensions with Kurds (INDEPENDENT UK) SHAMAL AQRAWI ERBIL, Iraq 04/27/12)
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Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr visited the president of the autonomous
northern Kurdistan region yesterday seeking to ease tensions between
Baghdad and the Kurds that have threatened the coalition government.
The central government and the Kurdish region have long-running
disputes over political autonomy, oil rights and contested
territories, and ties have been further strained by a recent clash
over oil exports.
Sadr, a Shia cleric who led uprisings against the US before American
forces withdrew last December, is an influential player in government
after his bloc´s support of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
helped secure al-Maliki´s position.
On his first visit to the Kurdish region, Sadr called for dialogue
between all government factions and presented 18 points, including
one on oil, on which he said all parties needed to agree. "The oil of
Iraq is for the people and no one has a right to claim it for
himself," he said.
Ties between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad were
strained last October when US oil giant Exxon Mobil signed a deal to
develop oilfields in the north, an agreement the central government
deemed illegal because it says it has control over Iraq´s oil exports.
The rift between Erbil and Baghdad widened further this month when
the KRG said it was halting oil exports from the region because
companies operating there were not being paid by Baghdad.
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