Referendum is a negotiating tactic, says Iraqi Kurd official

An Iraqi man sews a flag of Kurdistan bearing the portrait of Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region will hold a historic referendum on statehood in September, despite opposition to independence from Baghdad and possibly beyond. (AFP file photo)
Updated 16 July 2017

Referendum is a negotiating tactic, says Iraqi Kurd official

TEHRAN: A top Tehran-based official from Iraq’s Kurdish government has said its planned independence referendum is really a negotiating tactic to pressure Baghdad into meeting promises on energy and power-sharing.
Nazem Dabbagh, who represents the Kurdistan Regional Government in Tehran, also said he feared that Iraqi forces would attack Kurdish positions now that the fight to retake Mosul from Daesh was over.
But he was adamant that the Iraqi Kurds would prefer to remain part of Iraq, despite calling a referendum on independence for Sept. 25.
“We are doing this (holding the referendum) to resolve our problems in Iraq. For now, we do not have the intention of separating,” Dabbagh said in an interview with AFP at his office in the Iranian capital.
“We don’t feel that Iraq accepts us. For this reason, we seek to use appropriate opportunities — through diplomacy, Parliament and the people — in order to demand our rights. If they (Iraq) don’t want to solve our problems, our people are ready to sacrifice.”
Dabbagh accused Baghdad of failing to meet several key promises outlined in the Iraqi constitution of 2005, including resolving the status of Kirkuk, a city on the border between the Kurds’ semi-autonomous region and the rest of Iraq.
He said Baghdad had also failed to ratify laws on oil revenues and funding for the Kurdish security forces, known as the Peshmerga, despite the latter’s crucial role in pushing back Daesh.
“I believe that a Baathist mentality still exists among some Iraqi leaders,” said Dabbagh, referring to the previous regime under Saddam Hussein.
“They don’t accept others. They always resort to military force to resolve problems.”

Egypt flooding sparks fury

Cars drive through a flooded street after a flash flood affected Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday. EPA
Updated 11 min 46 sec ago

Egypt flooding sparks fury

  • Homes in the Fifth Settlement, one of the capital’s most affluent districts, were flooded on Tuesday and Wednesday
  • The public reacted angrily to what they regarded as incompetent management by officials

CAIRO: Extreme weather brought Cairo to a standstill this week with severe flooding that caused buildings to collapse. 

Homes in the Fifth Settlement, one of the capital’s most affluent districts, were flooded on Tuesday and Wednesday and hit by power cuts lasting hours. Motorists on Cairo’s busy ring road were forced to sleep in their cars after being stranded for more than eight hours.

And in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, a man died when a billboard on the popular coastal promenade blew away and fell on him.

Trains were delayed because of heavy rainfall and the police rescued 30 students from the Hayah International Academy after they fell down a mountain during a trip to the Wadi Degla nature reserve.

The public reacted angrily to what they regarded as incompetent management by officials.

Rain caused extensive damage to Area Ragy’s home in the Fifth Settlement when water poured through the ceiling.

“Everything is ruined in my flat. Home appliances don’t work any more and I don’t know how I’m going to pay for the damage,” said Ragy, a 28-year-old housewife. “I kept calling 122 (the police emergency number) but they did not even answer. Who should I call then when something like that happens? We were stuck with no one to give us any kind of support. No one is telling us anything. People are always on their own.”

The city’s sanitation authority set up a hotline but claimed that it had received no complaints, however residents said that they were unable to reach anyone from the authority because the chief and his deputies had their mobile phones switched off.

Others complained about the lack of equipment to pump water and mud from streets built without storm drains, and posted pictures of themselves stuck in traffic with ankle-deep water inside their cars.

“My kids and I could not get home to Maadi (south Cairo) and had to sleep in our car,” Ahmed Abdel-Latif, a 32-year-old civil engineer, told Arab News. “The kids kept crying and I couldn’t do anything for them. We did not move a meter for two hours, and we are talking here about a wealthy neighborhood that is maybe less than ten years old ... This is how our modern roads look.”

Traffic police commander Abdellah Rashad confirmed that the road from Cairo to Ain Sokhna was also closed for 60 kilometers due to “heavy rain.”

People posted photos of the collapsed ceiling at the relatively new Point 90 mall near the American University as an example of the “weak infrastructure” of the high-priced buildings in the Fifth Settlement.

“The best place for agriculture now is the Fifth Settlement,” said one Facebook post. Another read: “Villas for sale with sea view.” 

In the absence of any help from officials, activists launched their own information-gathering system using the hashtag #Kalak_Kajra_Jadidah (“so this is new Cairo”). 

Mohamed Arfan, the minister of administrative supervision, made a surprise tour of the New Cairo area on Wednesday night and quizzed workers at the electricity station about the reasons for the power cuts. He said that the city had to be better prepared in future to avoid a repeat of the disaster.

Sanitation authority officials have been called in to explain themselves as part of an inquiry into why there was apparently so much negligence.