By Ali Mukarrem Garip
Baghdad on Tuesday appointed a new governor in northern Iraq’s oil-rich Kirkuk province.
“I am taking up my role as governor with a view to restoring everyday life in Kirkuk,” Rakan Saeed told reporters Tuesday in Kirkuk. “With the government’s help, we can provide the city with needed security.
“It will be business as usual at Kirkuk’s state institutions and classes will resume in the city’s schools,” he added.
Saeed, who previously served as Kirkuk’s deputy governor, noted many residents recently fled the city, fearing possible clashes between the army and forces loyal to northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
The new governor said, however, all necessary precautions had been taken for the gradual return of families who fled.
In the run-up to the KRG’s illegitimate referendum on regional independence Sept. 25, Iraqi lawmakers voted to remove Najmiddin Karim from his post as Kirkuk governor after the provincial council decided to include the disputed province in last month’s referendum.
Iraqi forces on Monday said they had established “full control” in Kirkuk’s city center, and provided a list of facilities that had been appropriated from retreating pro-KRG forces.
Anti-Daesh coalition spokesman, Army Col. Ryan Dillon, said Tuesday sought to down play reports of clashes between Iraqi troops and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as a result of "miscommunication".
"There been no further reports of armed conflict or contact between the two groups," Dillion told reporters.
He urged both sides to avoid escalation because the “tensions distract from our unified fight against ISIS, which remains a very real threat here in Iraq".
Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, oil-rich Kirkuk has remained the subject of dispute between Baghdad and the Erbil-based KRG.
Peshmerga forces loyal to the KRG took control of Kirkuk province after the Iraqi army fled advances by the Daesh terror group in 2014.
*Anadolu Agency correcponsdent Safvan Allahverdi contributed to this report from Washington.
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