Turkey Expresses Concern over Iraq Vote

ANKARA (AP)–Turkey urged Iraqi electoral officials and the United Nations to examine what it claimed were skewed Iraqi elections results released Sunday–saying it was particularly concerned about vote tallies in the oil-rich and ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk.

Turkey has long complained that Kurdish groups were illegally moving Kurds into Kirkuk–a strategic northern city–in an effort to tip the city’s population balance in their favor.

Turkish officials did not make direct reference to the Kurds on Sunday–but the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that voter turnout in some regions was low and charged that there were "imbalanced results" in several regions–including Kirkuk.

"It has emerged that certain elemen’s have tried to influence the voting and have made unfair gains from this," the statement said–in an apparent reference to the Kurds. "As a result the Iraqi Interim Parliament won’t reflect the true proportions of Iraqi society."

Ankara fears that Kurdish domination of Kirkuk and oil fields near the city would make a Kurdish state in northern Iraq viable. Such a state–Turkish officials warn–could further inspire Turkey’s own rebellious Kurds–who have been battling the Turkish army in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

Hoshiyar Zebari–a Kurd who is Iraq’s interim foreign minister–said Turkey had no cause for concern over strong Kurdish showing in Iraq’s elections.

"Definitely all their fears are misplaced," he told CNN. "Iraq will remain united. This Kurdish participation in the Iraqi elections and in the regional election is reaffirmation of their commitment to a national unity of the country."

He said Kurds were seeking a democratic and pluralistic within a federal and united Iraq.

"There is no conspiracy here," he said. "Turkey should have no fears whatsoever about the future of Iraq remaining a friendly country to them–united but respecting the diversity of Iraqi society."

The Turkish statement called on the election board to seriously consider objections to the vote and urged the United Nations to take a "more active role" and ensure that "the flaws–the disorder–and irregularities" of the poll were not repeated when Iraqis vote on a new constitution later this year.

Iraq’s majority Shiite Muslims won nearly half the votes in the Jan. 30 election–giving the community significant power but not enough parliamentary seats to form a government on its own.

Two key Kurdish parties gained just over a quarter of votes cast–giving them considerable support in the national assembly to preserve Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq.

In Kirkuk–Kurds took to the streets to celebrate the results of the election. Cars sped through the streets blaring their horns and waving Kurdistan flags through a city that is fiercely divided between Sunni Muslim Arabs and Kurds.

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