Seeking to head off an explosion of ethnic violence, the United Nations will call for a power-sharing system of government for Iraq's deeply divided region of Kirkuk in the oil-rich north.
A draft UN plan, outlined to The Associated Press by two Western officials, aims to defuse dangerous tensions. Kurds, a majority in the region, have been trying to wrest control from Arabs, Turkomen and other rival ethnic groups. If open warfare breaks out, it could jeopardize the US goal of stability across Iraq before elections at year's end.
Peaceful elections are critical to reducing the US presence in Iraq, promised by President Barack Obama.
The UN has played only a minor role in Iraq since 2003, when its Baghdad headquarters was destroyed by a truck bomb. Now, officials in Kirkuk say the UN efforts may be the last chance for a peaceful outcome.
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Image: Iraqi policeman searches a man at a check point in Kirkuk, 290 km north of Baghdad, Iraq, on March 25, 2009.