Continued from page 2

The tensions between the mostly Kurdish region and the central government are just one of the elements of potential instability in Iraq, nearly a year after the last U.S. troops left the country.

Sectarian bombings and shootings rattle the country, and the government is paralyzed by conflicts between Shiite and Sunni Muslim lawmakers.

Brig. Gen. Shirko Rauof, a Kurdish military commander, said Mr. Barzani met soldiers aligned to his region in two areas near Kirkuk. He urged them to be on high alert while avoiding any escalation with nearby forces from the central government.

Control over the surrounding area is disputed by Iraqi Arabs and Kurds, as well as the smaller Turkomen minority.

Mr. Barzani’s latest move drew criticism from the Iraqi government and non-Kurdish provincial officials in Kirkuk.

From wire dispatches and staff reports