BAGHDAD: Iraqi lawmakers across a wide political spectrum cast aside differences yesterday to chastise what they claim is overreaching by the self-ruled Kurdish region.
The 145 Shi'ite, Sunni and other legislators signalled their opposition to Kurdish ambitions in the disputed northern city of Kirkuk and in negotiating deals with foreign oil companies without involving the central government.
"There must be a formula for maintaining the unity of Iraq and the distribution of its wealth," said a legislator.
"Oil and gas are a national wealth and we are concerned about those who want to go it alone when it comes to signing deals," he said.
The declaration comes at a time when Kurdish politicians are taking increasingly tough stands on the dispute over the fate of Kirkuk.
But even amid growing opposition, Kurdish officials yesterday said it were negotiating with two Canadian firms on a joint venture to construct an oil refinery and continue work on a second one to boost its fledgling oil industry.
The Kurdish spokesman said the contracts are legal and that no one has the authority to annul them.
Meanwhile, A new law passed by Iraq's parliament allowing ex-officials of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to return to public life was greeted warily by those it is supposed to benefit.
The Justice and Accountability Law was passed unanimously by the 143 members of parliament on Saturday after months of obstruction by hardline Shiites.
But senior Baathists were sceptical that it would bring reconciliation and feared instead they would be newly targeted by the Shi'ite-led regime.
Separately, French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed holding talks between Iraqi factions in France similar to those it hosted in July for Lebanon, in an interview published Sunday in the Al-Hayat daily.
"It is up to the parties involved to decide what steps to take next," he was quoted as saying in an interview published yesterday in the Al Hayat daily.