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Kurdish President Warns of New Iraqi Dictatorship

SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Is Iraq headed toward another Saddam Hussein-style dictatorship?

Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region, suggested that possibility on Thursday.

Barzani, who was in Washington to meet with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, said that unless Baghdad resolves simmering disputes involving its ethnic and political factions, the situation would be ripe for an autocratic government.

That would certainly distress the U.S., which spent nine years trying to help the Iraqis build a stable democracy.

Much of the problem lies with Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has been accused of marginalizing Sunnis and Kurds in an effort to consolidate power.

Barzani told reporters, "I have called on all the Iraqi parties and groups to get together and find a solution for this situation."  Otherwise, he would have to explain to the Kurdish population what their next step might entail.

The Kurdish leader was careful not to mention independence from the central government, which most in his region desire.

Tensions between Baghdad and the Kurds have been exacerbated since the Kurdistan Regional Government cut off oil exports to Iraq, saying Baghdad owed it $15 billion.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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