US and Kurds Issue Heavy Weapons Ultimatum
June 17 2003
The US and Kurdish authorities in Iraq on Tuesday issued a joint ultimatum
for all groups in the north of the country, other than the two main Kurdish
parties, to give up their heavy weapons.
This extends a new weapons regime that came into force in the rest of Iraq on
Sunday, but its implementation faces a special challenge in a mountainous region
that was outside the control of the Baghdad regime after 1991 and where many
factions have substantial arsenals.
The order - which lists a number of proscribed weapons including the BKC
machine-gun, the Dushka anti-aircraft gun, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars
and artillery - is based on "law number three" of the coalition forces in Iraq
and on a 1993 decree of the Kurdish parliament.
"These are very close, parallel documents," said Colonel Harry Schute, head
of the US-led civil affairs administration in northern Iraq. "The Kurdish
parliament law has been in effect for 10 years but has been loosely enforced due
to the special circumstances that existed until very recently."
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK),
the two Kurdish parties that each administers part of the Kurdish region, will
keep their heavy weapons, which they recently augmented with supplies from the
disintegrating Iraqi army.
The two parties have agreed with the Americans that their forces will be
later integrated into a new Iraqi army.
Among the other groups currently holding heavy weapons are the Islamic
Movement of Kurdistan, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party. Two Kurdish
parties from neighbouring countries - the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) of
Turkey and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran - also have heavy arms at
bases inside northern Iraq.
"We are giving these groups 15 days to be aware of the policy," said Colonel
The nature of Tuesday's announcement suggests that the KDP and the PUK will
enforce the order with the threat of US back-up.
Colonel Schute refused to specify what would happen if any groups kept their
heavy weapons. "We'll cross that bridge when we get there," he said. "I'd like
to give them an opportunity to comply with the programme."