Dis­putes again de­lay na­tion­wide cen­sus in Iraq

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

BAGHDAD: Iraq's govern­ment said it will again de­lay a na­tion­wide cen­sus that could de­ter­mine the real num­bers of the coun­try's re­li­gious and eth­nic groups.

The cen­sus, which would be Iraq's first na­tion­wide count in more than two decades, has been caught up in the larger dis­pute over ter­ri­tory and oil be­tween Iraq's cen­tral govern­ment and the semi­au­tonomous Kur­dish re­gion in the north.

Nei­ther side trusts the other to con­duct the count in the three prov­inces that make up the Kur­dish north or in the dis­puted ar­eas along its edge. It is cru­cial be­cause de­ter­min­ing the ex­act size of the bit­terly di­vided Arab and Kur­dish com­mu­ni­ties in the con­tested ar­eas could bol­ster the ter­ri­to­rial claims of one side or the other.

At stake is con­trol over the area's oil wealth.

The cen­sus was sup­posed to be held on Dec. 5, but po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have been un­able to re­solve the dis­agree­ments over who would do the count­ing in the dis­puted territories, said Plan­ning Min­istry of­fi­cial Mahdi al-Alaq. Of­fi­cials will meet again on Thurs­day to try to set­tle the ar­gu­ment.

No new date has been set for the cen­sus, al-Alaq said.

"The rea­son be­hind the de­lays in hold­ing the cen­sus is the deep mis­trust among po­lit­i­cal groups re­gard­ing the dis­puted ar­eas," said Kur­dish law­maker Mah­moud Oth­man.

A 1997 cen­sus that put Iraq's pop­u­la­tion at more than 26 mil­lion ex­cluded the three north­ern Kur­dish prov­inces be­cause they were be­yond the con­trol of the cen­tral govern­ment. Of­fi­cials have agreed to count the three prov­inces in the new cen­sus and to ask the res­i­dents to iden­tify their eth­nic­ity.

There is also dis­agree­ment over who can be con­sid­ered a le­gal res­i­dent and be counted given that there have been so many pop­u­la­tion shifts since the fall of Sad­dam Hus­sein.

The dis­puted ar­eas are home to Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen.

At the cen­ter of the dis­pute is the eth­ni­cally mixed city of Kirkuk, which sits on top of one-third of Iraq's es­ti­mated $11 tril­lion in oil re­serves. Arabs fear the Kurds want to an­nex Kirkuk to their north­ern au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

In Mo­sul, an­other eth­ni­cally mixed town in the dis­puted ter­ri­tory, po­lice said a gang of four in­sur­gents at­tacked an Iraqi army check­point, killing one sol­dier and wound­ing an­other. As po­lice rushed to re­spond to the at­tack, they were hit by a blast from a bomb hid­den in a shop­ping cart that was pushed into their path. One po­lice­man was wounded, of­fi­cials said, and the at­tack­ers fled be­fore they were cap­tured. A medic at Mo­sul's pub­lic hos­pi­tals con­firmed the ca­su­al­ties. In an­other Mo­sul at­tack, gun­men raided a con­ve­nience store Tues­day evening and killed its Chris­tian owner, po­lice and med­i­cal of­fi­cials said. -Ap

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