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Essay Kurdistan 2 Text Bubbles

ERBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurdistan proposed Wednesday to freeze the results of its independence referendum, which triggered a major crisis with Baghdad.

Iraq has called for the cancellation of the results of the vote, which saw a massive “yes” for independence, as a precondition for any talks.

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In retaliation, Iraq recently seized large areas of territory that Kurdish forces had captured over the years beyond the borders of the autonomous region.

In a statement released overnight, the Kurdistan government said it would “propose to the government and Iraqi public opinion … the freezing of the results of the referendum … and the start of an open dialogue between the government of Kurdistan and the central government on the basis of the constitution.”

The three-point text also proposes “an immediate ceasefire and cessation of military operations in Kurdistan,” after some 30 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and members of Iraqi government and paramilitary forces died in operations “to restore central power” in the disputed territories, including the wealthy province of Kirkuk.

By losing the huge oil fields there, Kurdistan has seen the possibility of an economically viable state disappear, experts say.

Only the Kurds, lest we forget, were the victims in our time of a massive poison-gas assault on civilians. Uncounted thousands of men, women and children fell in the Iraqi dictator's mustard-gas massacre in Halabja.

How has the United States Government responded to this continual rape of human rights? Our Export-Import Bank has provided a $200 million line of credit to Iraq; our Department of Agriculture has provided $1 billion in commodity credits to Saddam's cash-short regime; our State Department, eager to woo Iraq, turns a blind eye to the suffering of the people being told to assimilate or die.

The United Nations bureaucracy, well aware of the atrocities, refuses even to investigate or to put the Kurdish question on the international agenda. Kurdistan, you see, is not a member; it is only an area whose people have been promised autonomy since Woodrow Wilson issued the Fourteen Points.

A few voices have spoken out. In Paris, Mme. Danielle Mitterrand lent her prestige last month to a meeting called to protest the inhumane international silence. In Washington, Senator Daniel Inouye won an amendment last week to Ex-Im Bank regulations stopping loans to terrorist nations unless the President specifically requests a waiver ''in the national interest'' - which Mr. Bush would then have to justify publicly.

But where are all the people who believe so fervently in the right of self-determination? The ignored Kurds would leap at the chance for autonomy and cultural identity long spurned as insufficient by heavily publicized Palestinian spokesmen. The free elections now being offered Palestinians are beyond the wildest dreams of oppressed Kurds.

Can you imagine the international uproar - the demands for U.N. expulsion - if Israel were accused of inflicting 1 percent of the atrocities on Arabs that Iraq has demonstrably inflicted on Kurds?

Such selective outrage on our part is hypocrisy: Palestinians and Kurds alike are entitled to self-rule and respect for their culture on the way to settlement of sovereignty issues. A little principled consistency is called for.

Here is what Mr. Bush should do now: 1. Say a word in behalf of the Kurdish people's right to live in their villages and speak their own language, even if this assertion of our moral values upsets some of their oppressors in Baghdad, Ankara, Teheran and Damascus. 2. Direct our U.N. delegate to sponsor and campaign for a Human Rights Commission investigation of population relocation crimes. This may expose the weakness of the U.N. in the face of Arab and Persian intransigence, but might just shame the membership into action. 3. Suspend all Department of Agriculture Commodity Credit guarantees to Iraq, and not on human rights grounds alone: something fishy may be going on with U.S. credit guarantees to Iraq at the Atlanta, Ga., branch of the Banca Nationale del Lavoro. Incredibly, despite a worldwide investigation under way, the U.S.D.A. only last week issued $500 million in new export credits to Iraq. 4. Designate 5 percent of our refugee slots to Kurds, who - better than most Polish or Hungarian dissidents, or Soviet Jews - can now claim ''a well-founded fear of persecution.'' This would bring 6,000 Kurds to America, enough to stage a protest on TV.

On the day Americans give thanks for our freedom, the least we can do is to give hope to the homeless nation.

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