Talks between Kurdish leaders and Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad late in April have failed as yet to ease tensions on the ground. On 8 May, three car bombs targeting Kurdish political parties and Peshmerga troops went off in and around Kirkuk, killing at least three and injuring 50.

Their crude exports cut off and budget payments disputed, the Kurds are on the rack. But Mr Maliki is under pressure too. Results so far from 20 April provincial elections show his State of Law coalition remains as the largest single party, but with a sharply reduced number of seats – 97 from the 12 provinces, which voted, compared to 124 for the same provinces in the 2009 elections. (CONTINUED - 338 WORDS)