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Iraqi Kurds want to double share of oil revenues

Iraqi Kurds’ dreams for a post-Saddam Iraq include doubling their share of oil revenues, the speaker of the regional parliament told The Associated Press on Monday.

Under the UN oil-for-food program, the area of northern Iraq controlled by Kurds now gets 13% of Iraqi oil revenues. Rosch Shawais, speaker of the 105-seat Iraqi Kurdish parliament, called that ?a start point?.

?This percent should be due to the relative percent of the population,? he said. ?I think this should be 27 or 26%, but not less than 25%.?

Attention focused on the Kurds’ financial, political and territorial ambitions has grown along with the possibility of a US-Iraq war. US President George Bush has said ?regime change? — perhaps by force — is the only way to stop Iraq from stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

Shawais’s oil revenue calculations included expanding the territory Kurds run in what they envision as a federal system emerging if the United States toppled President Saddam Hussein. Last week, the top Iraqi Kurdish military commander, Cmdr. Hamid Efendi, said his forces would try to capture the prized oil fields around Kirkuk and Mosul — now outside the Western-protected Kurdish enclave — if the United States attacks Saddam.

Protected from Saddam by American and British warplanes since the 1991 Gulf War, Kurds in northern Iraq have built what to many looks like a state _ with a parliament, schools, police, media and a military.

Iraqi Kurdish leaders say they want to remain part of Iraq, but many of their followers talk openly about aspirations for independence. Neighbors Turkey, Syria and Iran worry that a US attack would set off the disintegration of Iraq and the rise of a Kurdish state that would inspire their own restive Kurdish minorities.

Adding to the tensions, Turkey considers Kirkuk and Mosul, which Iraqi Kurdish leaders want as part of their territory, an ethnic Turkish heartland. – Sapa-AP

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