|BAGHDAD (AFP) — Iraq's interim Governing Council President Adnan Pachachi has said he is committed to a federal Iraq, but told Kurds, clamouring for more autonomy now, they must be patient, even as the issue ignites violence.
"We have accepted federalism in principle, but there are different forms of federalism in the world and I cannot tell you for the moment what the final form will be in Iraq," Pachachi, the 25-member council's president for January, said on Iraqi television late Saturday.
Pachachi, a member of Iraq's Sunni Arab former elite, committed himself to a federal framework that would give the opportunity of self-rule to both the Kurds in north and the Shiite Arab majority in the south.
But he stressed the issue could not be decided by the Governing Council as it was not an elected government, and should instead be put before a promised constitutional convention due to be elected in March 2005.
"The relationship between the Kurdish region and the central government will be defined by the constitution which will be drafted by a freely elected body," Pachachi said.
"Since the founding of Iraq, all the world has recognised Kurds constitute a separate ethnic group, which led to the granting of special status for the Kurdish region."
Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani have already put forward draft legislation to the Governing Council demanding immediate creation of an enlarged autonomous region, without waiting for the adoption of an interim basic law in March. The issue has fueled violence in the northern oil centre of Kirkuk, which the Kurds want included in their self-rule region over the objections of the city's Arab and Turkmen minorities.
Seven people have been killed in clashes there since Wednesday.
Pachachi Friday blamed the ethnic violence on "forces of the past" and offered to broker a solution.
"We pain over these events and want to point out that the forces of the past want to use them to fuel the flames of ethnicity and sectarianism and plunge us into conflict and hinder our efforts towards reconstruction and democracy," he said.
Pachachi took over the Governing Council's rotating presidency for January from Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, leader of the Shiite religious party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).
SCIRI too has urged the Kurds to be patient. "Priority must be granted to the central question, that of independence in Iraq, which is occupied by foreign forces," said party official Sheikh Sadreddine Al Kubbanji.
"Our Kurdish brothers must concentrate on this first before talking about other rights," he said in a sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers Friday.
Pachachi confirmed he would head an Iraqi delegation to New York to meet UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Jan. 19. He did not exclude the possibility of the US civil administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, joining those talks.