Kurdish delegation to discuss Khanaqin dispute in Baghdad

Kurdish leaders headed on Sunday to Baghdad to discuss with Iraqi officials the crisis in the district of Khanaqin, a cabinet secretary in the Kurdistan regional government said.

The delegation will remain in Baghdad for three or four days, and will tackle other areas of dispute with senior Iraqi officials, the official said.

Tensions between the central government and the Kurdish region have been running high following the deployment of mainstream Iraqi forces into the district, the dpa reported.

It is located about 100 kilometres north-east of Baquba in Diyala province, and is claimed by Kurds although it lies outside the Kurdish region.

The deployment of Iraqi federal troops into the primarily Kurdish northern districts of Diyala province is a sensitive issue, and Kurdish leaders have long sought to incorporate the area into their autonomous region.

A day after the deployment and the withdrawal of the Kurdish peshmerga (militia) fighters, thousands of Khanaqin residents took to the streets in protest.

Iraqi officials said the deployment is part of a large-scale security operation Bashaer al-Kheir (Promise of Good) that was started in July to track down armed groups in Diyala.

Some observers however say the deployment could hold the political function of pushing Kurdish forces back behind the blue line created in 1991 by the US-led coalition to define the limits of the semi- autonomous Kurdish region.

On Friday, Iraqi member of parliament Humam Hamoudi from the main Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Coalition (UIC) told the Voices of Iraq news agency that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told Kurds any Peshmerga fighter deployed outside the blue line would face legal action.

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