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Arab residents of the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk expressed anger Sunday at the government's plan to encourage relocation of the city's Arab population. Most of the city's current residents were forced to move to the now ethnically diverse, oil-rich city during the "Arabization" phase of Saddam Hussein's Anfal campaign, which drove out Kurds and brought in Shiite Muslims. The Iraqi government hopes to encourage relocation by offering 20 million dinars and a piece of land to each Arab family that voluntarily leaves the city.

Iraqi Kurds have expressed desire to incorporate the city into the nearby Kurdistan region. The compensation scheme has angered both Shiite and Sunni Arab parliament members over the fear that Kurds will attempt to seize control of the city in a move towards declaring independence from Baghdad. Iraqi Justice Minister Hashim Abderrahman al-Shebli [Wikipedia backgrounder] submitted his resignation to the Cabinet last week in the midst of the debate over the relocation scheme. Under the Iraqi constitution, a referendum must be held by the end of the year to determine the future of the city.


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