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IRAQ WARS
Macron calls for 'dialogue' in Iraq and dismantling of militias
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Dec 2, 2017


Two mass graves found in Yazidi district of Iraq
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 2, 2017 - Iraqi paramilitary forces have uncovered two more mass graves containing the bodies of 140 civilians, including women and children, in an area home to the Yazidi religious minority, they said Saturday.

In 2014, IS killed thousands of Yazidis in Sinjar and kidnapped thousands of women and girls from the community to abuse them as sex slaves.

The Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary alliance said it had found "a mass grave with the bodies of 20 women and about 40 children in the village of Kabusi, south of Sinjar."

Elsewhere, "in the Jazira residential complex, also south of Sinjar, 80 other bodies, mostly Yazidis, were discovered," it said.

Kurdish fighters backed by the US-led coalition against IS captured Sinjar from the jihadists in November 2015 before Iraqi security forces took control of the region in October.

As government troops have advanced across Iraq they have uncovered dozens of mass graves holding hundreds of bodies in areas that fell under the jihadists' brutal rule.

Iraqi officials said on 22 November they had found a mass grave in Sinjar containing the bodies of dozens of members of the minority killed by the Islamic State group.

Sinjar mayor Mahma Khalil said that since 2015, around 40 mass graves have been discovered in the region and that "all the victims were Yazidis".

The Yazidis are Kurdish-speaking but follow their own non-Muslim faith that earned them the hatred of the Sunni Muslim extremists of IS.

Yazidis believe in one God who created the world and entrusted it to seven Holy Beings, the most important of which is Melek Taus, or the Peacock Angel.

French President Emmanuel Macron called Saturday for a rapid opening of dialogue between Iraq's central government and Iraqi Kurdish leaders and for "all militias" to be dismantled to ease tensions.

"France calls for a constructive national dialogue to engage in Iraq," Macron said at a joint news conference in Paris with Iraqi Kurdish leaders, including Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.

Baghdad and the Kurdish regional capital Arbil have been locked in dispute ever since September's independence referendum, which resulted in a resounding "yes" vote for independence in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Iraqi security forces backed by paramilitaries responded by seizing the oil-rich Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk in October and other disputed territory.

Long-serving Kurdish president Masoud Barzani, whose nephew is Nechirvan, then resigned over the affair.

"Having a strong, reconciled, pluralistic Iraq which recognises each of its components is a condition for the immediate and medium-term stability," of the Middle East, said Macron.

The French president, who previously met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on 29 October, said dialogue needed to be built in "full respect of the constitution of 2005".

He also called for "a gradual demilitarisation, in particular of the 'Popular Mobilisation' that has taken place in the last few years, and that all militias be gradually dismantled".

Fighters from Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi are a controversial fighting force that formed in 2014 after the country's most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urged citizens to take up arms against Islamic State jihadists.

Bringing together a dizzying array of paramilitary groups under the command of Iraq's prime minister, the Hashed has since played a key role in battles against IS and more recently against Kurdish forces.

But the Shiite-dominated alliance remains deeply divisive; has often been described as an Iranian-backed group, and has been accused of a wave of abuses.

The French president said the new generation of Kurdish leaders has a "historic responsibility" and said France would do all it can to ensure "dialogue can succeed," indicating that he will soon meet Abadi again.

Nechirvan Barzani, who has been trying to negotiate an end to the confrontation with Baghdad, said on Saturday that his government "respected" a verdict by the Iraqi Supreme Federal Court that ruled the independence referendum unconstitutional.

He also said he had "no problem" with the federal government over the issue of border control.

The Iraqi federal government has demanded the handover of border posts and airports in the Kurdish region.

IRAQ WARS
Iraqis throng to Picasso in Baghdad
Baghdad (AFP) Nov 28, 2017
Picasso, Dali, Miro, Chagall... names that are instantly recognisable in the international art world. Now works by these masters are being exhibited in Baghdad thanks to an anonymous Iraqi collector. The exhibition at the Hiwar gallery - one of the last to remain open in the city - includes 24 Picasso lithographs. For gallery owner Qassem Sabti, "this exhibition is a historic chance" f ... read more

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