US forces to control Kirkuk: White House

  • Agence France-Presse, PTI, Kirkuk, Iraq
  • |
  • Updated: Apr 10, 2003 21:11 IST

US forces "will be in control of Kirkuk", White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Thursday, after the seizure of the city by US-backed Kurds revived fears in Turkey of a wider Kurdish independence bid.

US and Kurdish forces said they controlled the vital oilfields of Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

"The forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) control the oilfields", PUK military commander Hosman Banimarany told AFP.

A captain with the US troops who entered the key city earlier Thursday with the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters also said that there were American units all around the oilfields.

The "governor in exile" of Kirkuk, however, told AFP that Kurdish fighters who seized the oil-rich city along with US forces will have to leave.

"The Peshmergas will never be authorised to remain. They will have to withdraw," Hamgam said, without giving a date.

Hamgam, a member of the central committee of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was named governor in exile of Kirkuk by the Kurdish parties which control autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan and seek to control the city.

PUK military commander Hosman Banimarany for his part said the Peshmergas would stay in Kirkuk to "make our plans for Tikrit," Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's stronghold on the road to Baghdad.

Saddam's statue pulled down

Residents of Kirkuk pulled down a large statue of Saddam Hussein in the central square and burned a giant portrait of the Iraqi president, an AFP correspondent witnessed.


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