Pact With Iraq Reached, Kurdish Leader Reports

From Times Wire Services

Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said Sunday that he has reached agreement with the Iraqi government on a pact that would bring free elections to Iraq within a year.

Barzani said the accord also promised the Kurds elections of their own within three months. He spoke after several days of consultation with tribal, community and political leaders from all over Kurdistan.

The agreement could be signed as early as this week in Baghdad, Barzani said.

But Jalal Talabani, leader of the second-largest Iraqi Kurdish guerrilla group after Barzani's, said Kurdish leaders must still debate the deal worked out with Baghdad.

"This is only a draft. All the Kurdish leaders will discuss this. Agreement with Iraq is possible if all the leaders agree on the draft and approve it," Talabani said.

There was no word on such an agreement by Iraqi media Sunday.

Barzani said the agreement would divide up revenues from the key oil-producing city of Kirkuk, long claimed by the Kurds as culturally part of the Kurdish region. The city is now under control of Iraqi troops after a fierce rebellion touched off by Iraq's Gulf War defeat.

The agreement would also provide for elections for an autonomous Parliament in the Kurdish region to be carried out in three months, with similar elections nationwide in six months to a year. Kurdistan, however, would still be part of Iraq.

Barzani said there was no discussion with government negotiators as to whether allied troops, now overseeing the return of Kurdish refugees, would act as guarantors of the agreement.

He did not rule out allied support, although he asserted that the principal guarantee would be the good faith he said has developed between the Iraqi government and the Kurds, who make up about 20% of Iraq's 17 million people.

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