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In northern Iraq, O'Malley continues a tireless pursuit of reconciliation

Making peace is hard work. And there are few in the world who pursue it with the relentlessness and entrepreneurial spirit of Padraig O'Malley.

This time the professor and advocate for peace takes his energy to Kirkuk, Iraq, where he is pulling together the leaders from each of the three governmental bodies that lay claim to the coveted oil fields of Kirkuk.

Kirkuk is one of the great flashpoints for tension as the country prepares for the crucial election in January 2010, and this effort is intended to try to defuse the powderkeg that is Kirkuk.

O'Malley, an Irishman whose work on reconciliation efforts around the world is funded and supported by the University of Massachusetts and Tufts University, has for the first time brought together leaders from the Kirkuk Provisional Council, the Kurdistan Parliament, and the Iraqi Parliament.

At issue is how these groups can work together for the ethnically mixed city to govern itself and to determine whether Kirkuk province should become part of the autonomous Kurdistan region. It will also take up the thorny issue of property claims from people who were displaced during the reign of Saddam Hussein, and who will control and profit from the oil fields beneath the city.

O'Malley is the John Joseph Moakley Distinguished Professor of Peace and Reconciliation at the University of Massachusetts Boston¹s McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies. During the conference, Professor O'Malley and his team of negotiators from Northern Ireland and South Africa will use the Helsinki Agreement, a set of guidelines agreed upon last year by Iraq's national leaders as a result of a process facilitated by O'Malley and his team, to guide the discussions.

The hope is that the conferees will create an inter-parliamentary tier involving the three legislative bodies as the political vehicle to secure a peaceful future for the divided city.