Iraqi Army: No intention to enter Kurdistan

An Iraqi Kurdish woman raises a sign during a demonstration on Saturday outside the UN Office in Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2017
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Iraqi Army: No intention to enter Kurdistan

BAGHDAD: Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite paramilitaries have seized almost all disputed areas from Kurdish fighters, but have no intention to enter the Kurdish region itself, Iraqi military officers told Arab News on Saturday.
Baghdad launched a military operation last week to drive Kurdish forces out of the northern city of Kirkuk, its lucrative oilfields and all disputed areas next to Iraqi Kurdistan.
Major clashes erupted on Friday when federal troops advanced to retake Alton Kobrai town, the last disputed territory, 40 km northwest of Kirkuk.
Kurdish forces attacked the advancing troops with mortars, rockets and grenades, killing several soldiers and Shiite fighters, military sources said.
“The military operation is almost complete. Small villages and towns in the area are still out of our control,” Ahmed Assadi, spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), told Arab News.
“The operation will end as soon as the troops completely reach the Blue Line (the 2003 agreed border of Iraqi Kurdistan), and we have no orders or intention to cross this line.”
Around 120,000 people have fled Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatoo in the last five days due to the military operation, Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement said on Saturday.
In 2014, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) took advantage of the Iraqi Army’s weakness in the face of lightning advances by Daesh to seize territory beyond the Blue Line.
The military operation was launched in response to a controversial referendum held last month by the KRG, in which 92 percent of Kurds voted for independence from Iraq.
Baghdad has demanded the cancelation of the result, and the handover of disputed areas, as preconditions for talks “under the umbrella of the constitution.”
Iraqi presidential adviser Sherwan Al-Waieli told Arab News that KRG President Masoud Barzani cannot represent the Kurdish side in talks because “legally and constitutionally, he hasn’t been president for two years.”
Barzani’s tenure as KRG president ended in 2015, and he has been pressuring the Kurdish Parliament and political parties to extend his term.
The most influential parties — the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Gorran — shared power until 2014, when Barzani, who heads the KDP, limited the influence of the other two parties after they rejected his request to extend his term.
Last week, it was alleged that PUK leaders forged an agreement with Baghdad to withdraw from all disputed areas under their control without fighting. On Saturday, Gorran urged Barzani to step down to open the door for talks with Baghdad.
“The new government has to represent all the Kurdish parties, contribute to the establishment of security and stability, address economic problems and begin dialogue with Baghdad,” Masoud Haider, a senior leader of Gorran and a federal lawmaker, told Arab News.
“There’s a political and military setback in Kurdistan because of the decisions made by the KDP and PUK over the past two years, and they must bear the consequences.”
Barzani’s position as KRG president “is illegal,” said Haider.
“His term ended two years ago, so he has to step down.”


Firefighters tackle blaze in high-rise tower in Dubai

Updated 22 April 2018
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Firefighters tackle blaze in high-rise tower in Dubai

DUBAI: A fire broke out Sunday at a prominent skyscraper in Dubai, sending smoke billowing from its roof and those inside fleeing into the streets.
Firefighters and police on the scene of the blaze at the Almas Tower in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lake Towers neighborhood.
The government’s Dubai Media Office described the blaze as a “minor fire.”
“All employees and visitors are being evacuated and no injuries have been reported so far,” the Dubai Media Office wrote on Twitter.


The Almas Tower, over 60 stories tall, is home to the Dubai Multi Commodities Center, which is also an economic free zone. The DMCC had hosted a conference earlier Sunday in partnership with Asia House called “The New Global Trade Order.”
The DMCC did not immediately answer a request for comment.

It was the tallest building in Dubai, until 2009, when it was surpassed by Burj Khalifa. It is primarily an office building and remains the tallest building at the Jumeirah Lakes Towers cluster off Dubai’s Shaikh Zayed Road.
Dubai, a skyscraper-studded city in the United Arab Emirates, has suffered a spate of fires in its high-rises.
Dubai passed new fire safety rules last year requiring that quick-burning side paneling on buildings be replaced with more fire-resistant cladding. Authorities have previously acknowledged that at least 30,000 buildings across the UAE have cladding or paneling that safety experts have said accelerates the rapid spread of fires.