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Iraqi Official Warns Against Ethnic Divide

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih has warned against turning disagreements within Iraq's multi-faction government into an Arab-Kurdish conflict.

In an interview with the French news agency, AFP, Salih said there are "vicious and dangerous" attempts to convert political and economic problems in Baghdad into a gulf between Iraq's Arab and Kurdish communities. He did not say who is behind such attempts.

Salih, a Kurd, cited differences on how to handle the disputed, ethnically mixed area of Kirkuk. Control of the city is hotly contested as it sits atop vast oil reserves.

Salih said there are also differences over a national oil law that has been delayed in parliament following disagreements on revenue sharing among the assembly's Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish factions.

The issue of control of the country's oil revenues has become a source of contention for Iraq's parliament. Iraq holds provincial elections in January.

The elections will follow the expiration this month of a United Nations mandate for the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Iraq's presidency council approved a parliamentary measure Sunday allowing the presence of non-U.S. foreign troops in the country after the mandate expires. The non-U.S. troops include those from Britain, Australia, Estonia, Romania, and NATO.

The U.S. and Iraq already have signed an agreement allowing U.S. troops to stay in Iraq until the end of 2011.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.