Iraq Risks Return to Dictatorship, Kurdish Leader Says

Kurdish President Massoud Barzani said Iraq risks a return to dictatorship unless its ethnic and political factions resolve their stalemate.

“I have called on all the Iraqi parties and groups to get together and find a solution for this situation” so as not to allow a dictatorship to develop, Barzani said today through an interpreter at a policy group’s luncheon in Washington.

Barzani, who is heading home after meetings with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, pledged to work toward a solution within the terms of Iraq’s constitution. Tension between the central government in Baghdad and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region have increased as the U.S. seeks to encourage a unified Iraq after withdrawing troops at the end of December.

Should efforts to reach agreement fail, Barzani said he would present the “realities” to the Kurdish people for their decision. He didn’t specify whether the options would include declaring full independence, a goal long sought by many Kurds.

Relations between the Kurds and the central government were further strained on April 1 when the Kurdistan Regional Government, which exports crude using a pipeline controlled by Iraq, stopped deliveries. The Kurdish Ministry of Natural Resources said Iraq failed to pay about $1.5 billion owed to oil producers since May 2011.

Kurdistan will resume exports once Iraq pays “the expenses” for those producers, Barzani said in his speech today at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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