Allotting of Iraqi Oil Rights May Stoke Hostility

May 29, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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 Kurd1Christoph Bangert for The New York Times

Kurds have built rough homes in Kirkuk near oil fields on land the government says is not theirs.

 By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS and SUADAD AL-SALHY

Published: May 28, 2009

KIRKUK, Iraq — Sheik Habih Shawqi Hamakan peered through his binoculars on a recent afternoon at a sight he considers, despite the rising columns of black smoke that blot out the sun, pure beauty.

As far as the eye can see are oil fields, among the most productive in Iraq. He turned, gesturing to his rambling two-story house with its garden of blossoming pink and yellow rosebushes. That, too, sits on an oil field.

The sheik is one of thousands of Kurds who have moved to Kirkuk, an unstable oil town in northern Iraq, since the 2003 United States-led invasion and claimed plots of land not theirs to build houses. Some of the homes, illegal facts on the ground aimed at furthering Kurdish claims to Kirkuk, sit a mere half mile from towering flames of natural gas among the oil fields.

Their presence is one of many pressure points converging at a critical time in Kirkuk, as rights to those fields are scheduled to be awarded to the highest bidding international oil company next month as part of Iraq’s larger effort to bolster its slumping economy by nearly tripling oil production over the next six years.

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