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U.S. and Kurds to Set Up Panel to Return Displaced People

The U.S. official said 200,000 Kurds were displaced from the northern city of Kirkuk alone during Saddam's rule. "If they didn't convert their ethnic identity (to Arab), they were forced to leave. They now want the right to go home"
U.S. and Kurds to Set Up Panel to Return Displaced People
Tehran Times, Iran, April 24, 2003

SULAYMANIYA, Iraq -- A committee will be set up under U.S. supervision to ensure an orderly return of the tens of thousands of people displaced under Saddam Hussein's regime, a Kurdish leader said Wednesday.

Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) told reporters the creation of a committee was confirmed in talks Tuesday with U.S. General Jay Garner, the civilian administrator for post-war Iraq.

"There will be a committee later representing all sides under the guidance of the United States to arrange how people must go back home in a regular way, not in chaos," Talabani said as carried by AFP. "We had made a commitment. Yesterday we assured, we repeated it."

Massud Barzani, of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Talabani, who have ruled northern Iraq since after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, both met Garner on Tuesday and again Wednesday. A U.S. official travelling with Garner said, "The committee on displaced people has to be formed within weeks or months, but there (also) has to be some kind of interim Iraqi administration within weeks or months."

The official, who declined to be named, warned that no matter how fast it (the restitution process) moves there will be some tension and anger. "It has to be done on an urgent basis. But it has to be done by Iraqis. It can't be done by U.S.," he said.

He said that while the United States already had a commitment from opposition leaders that restitutions would be done through an "orderly process," the issue needed to be tackled from Baghdad as it affected all Iraq.

The U.S. official said 200,000 Kurds were displaced from the northern city of Kirkuk alone during Saddam's rule. "If they didn't convert their ethnic identity (to Arab), they were forced to leave. They now want the right to go home," said the official.

The official described a commission run by Iraqis similar to that set up in Bosnia after the Balkans war to ensure it does not become a political tool. He noted that the displaced Kurds had not tried to force their way back home.

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