Iraqi Kurdish leader boosts power to disputed city

AP News
Posted: Jun 29, 2011 3:10 PM
Iraqi Kurdish leader boosts power to disputed city

The president of Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region said Wednesday he is giving free electricity to the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk, where he wants to wrest control from the central government in Baghdad.

President Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government promised to give the residents there about three additional hours of electricity each day, which is to be doubled to six hours next month.

Baghdad already supplies Kirkuk with about eight hours of power daily, according to Electricity Ministry spokesman Musab al-Mudaris. That's about what most Iraqis get as well.

Barzani said he wanted to give the city more electricity "to alleviate the sufferings of the residents even a little, until all of the disputed lands are returned to the Kurdistan region."

Barzani stressed he is determined to help Kirkuk's citizens.

Electricity shortages are a key complaint of Iraqis, who have limited cold water and air conditioning during the searing summers.

Located 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Kirkuk sits at the heart of disputed lands that the Kurdish region and Iraq's central government each want to control. Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen are competing to claim Kirkuk and its lucrative oil reserves as their own.

The dispute is one of the simmering flashpoints that U.S. officials fear could boil over into war when American troops leave at the end of the year as scheduled.

In other developments in Iraq, a court sentenced the wife of a slain top al-Qaida leader to life in prison on terror charges.

A statement issued Wednesday by the country's Supreme Judicial Council said the wife of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi confessed to handling finance and suicide vests for al-Qaida.

Al-Baghdadi and the other top al-Qaida in Iraq leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, were killed during a joint Iraq-U.S. operation last year in what was seen as a major blow to the group.

Also, the brother of a Shiite politician who was slain by insurgents after trying to bar Sunni candidates from running in last year's elections has also been killed, police and hospital officials said.

Jamal al-Lami, a Baghdad businessman, was shot and killed on Wednesday _ just a month after his brother Ali al-Lami was assassinated by al-Qaida in Iraq.

Ali al-Lami headed the Accountability and Justice Commission, which weeded out Saddam Hussein loyalists from the parliamentary ballot.

Critics said his blacklists mainly targeted prominent Sunnis who challenged the Shiite-led government.


Associated Press Writers Mazin Yahya in Baghdad and Sameer N. Yacoub in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.