BAGHDAD, April 4 (Xinhua) -- The provincial council of the ethnically mixed Kirkuk province voted Tuesday in favour of a draft to hold a referendum to decide the fate of the province whether to join the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan or remain as part of Iraq.
The decision of Kirkuk's Kurdish-dominated provincial council was made by the voting of majority of 26 members out of 41, the total number of the provincial council, after the walkout of the Arab and Turkoman council members.
Almas Fadhil, a female Kurdish council member, told Xinhua "the decision to hold a referendum that Kirkuk to join Kurdistan region was adopted by majority of the council members."
Fadhil demanded implementation of article 140 from the Iraqi constitution, which states that a referendum should be held in the disputed areas between Baghdad and the Kurdish region so that the residents decide to join the region or be part of Iraq.
Article 140 of Iraq's 2005 constitution calls for several steps to address the dispute over the ethically-mixed Kirkuk and other disputed areas, including a referendum.
However, problems raised among the conflicting ethnicities as Arabs and Turkmen favour a plan that the electoral law should use 2004 voter registry, as they accuse the Kurds of carrying out demographic change in the disputed areas, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk in the years after 2003, while the Kurds refuse the plan accusing Saddam Hussein's regime of displacing thousands of Kurds who were replaced with Arabs to make Kirkuk a predominantly Arab province.
On March 28, Kirkuk's council voted in raising the Kurdish flag alongside the Iraqi flag on the building of the provincial council despite the withdrawal of Arab and Turkoman council members, who argued that the move is a pre-decision that Kirkuk is part of Kurdistan.
Four days later, the Iraqi parliament rejected the decision of Kirkuk's provincial council after 186 lawmakers of the 328-seat parliament voted in favour of displaying only the Iraqi flag on Kirkuk's buildings.
The parliament voting, this time, witnessed the walkout of Kurdish lawmakers before the vote.
In addition, Fadhil told Xinhua that Kirkuk's council session also rejected the Iraqi parliament decision of raising the Kurdish flag alongside the Iraqi one over the government buildings.
Disagreements between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been high for years, as the ethnic Kurds consider the northern oil-rich province of Kirkuk and parts of Nineveh, Diyala and Salahudin provinces as disputed areas and want them to be incorporated into their semi-autonomous Kurdish region, a move fiercely opposed by the Arabs and Turkomans and by Baghdad government.