Ismail Abbudi, the head of the local Arab Grouping, told reporters on Tuesday he expected to see “thousands of Arabs and Turkmen march on Wednesday to reject the federalism bill by the Kurds and the expansion of the Kurdish provinces to include Kirkuk.”
The demonstration will be held under the slogan “Equality between all Iraq’s ethnic groups and religions,” he said.
Abbudi said that the different Arab and Turkmen parties would be represented as well as the partisans of the young firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose men will maintain security during the march.
On 22 December, thousands of Kurds demonstrated in Kirkuk in favour of including the city, which lies 255 kms north of Baghdad, in their provinces.
Kurdish representatives on the US-installed interim Governing
Council have submitted a bill to establish a federal Iraq without waiting for a constitutional convention promised for 2005.
All five Kurdish members of the council are backing the bill,
including the heads of the two main former rebel factions, Jalal Talabani and Massud Barzani.
Under an agreement reached between the council and the US-led coalition administering Iraq, the coalition is to hand over
sovereignty to a provisional government by the end of June.
General elections are to be held before the end of 2005 after a constitution to be drawn up by an elected convention in March that year.
The bill foresees the expansion of Kurdish autonomy from the
three northern provinces which rebel factions ruled in defiance of Saddam Hussein, to include the oil-rich province of Tamim around Kirkuk and parts of the ethnically-mixed provinces of Nineveh and Diyala.
Iraqis carry the body of a man
Also on Tuesday, US soldiers detained 20 suspected armed fighters and discovered a weapons cache north of Baghdad.
Spokeswoman Major Josslyn Aberle said 10 of those held on Monday morning in Shahad al-Mab, west of Baqubah, had been targeted by the soldiers.
During the operation soldiers from the 1-68 Armoured Battalion of the US 4th Infantry Division also found two rocket launchers, 23 blocks of TNT explosive and other weaponry, Aberle said, at divisional headquarters in Tikrit.
Earlier on Tuesday, one Iraqi civilian was killed when resistance fighters detonated a roadside bomb in the capital, as a US convoy drove by in a densely populated residential area.
“They have not killed any Americans, just Iraqis as usual. We consider it terrorism.”
Karim Abbas, shopkeeper
Three other Iraqis, including a translator with the occupying US forces, were injured in the attack on Tuesday, said Iraqi police Major Khatan Jabir. There were no casualties among US troops.
One of the injured Iraqis is in a serious condition.
A US military Humvee was parked in the middle of the road, shortly after the blast in the Karrada neighbourhood, beside a shattered concrete road divide where the bomb appeared to have been planted.
The explosion cracked windows on the street lined with shops selling vegetables and groceries.
“They have not killed any Americans, just Iraqis as usual. We consider it terrorism,” said shopkeeper Karim Abbas bitterly.
People said the dead man worked in a nearby shop.