Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ruling Parties Reject Iraq Division

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's major political parties denounced the US Senate proposal calling for a limited centralized government with the bulk of the power given to the country's Shiite, Sunni or Kurdish regions, saying it would seriously hamper Iraq's future stability.

At a news conference earlier Sunday, at least nine Iraqi political parties and party blocs representing both Shiites and Sunnis said the Senate resolution would diminish Iraq's sovereignty and called for parliament draft a law permanently banning any division of Iraq along sectarian or ethnic lines.

"Our goal in Iraq remains the same: a united, democratic, federal Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself,'' the statement said. "Iraq's leaders must and will take the lead in determining how to achieve these national aspirations. ... attempts to partition or divide Iraq by intimidation, force or other means into three separate states would produce extraordinary suffering and bloodshed.''

A nonbinding Senate resolution adopted last week calls for Iraq to be divided into federal regions under control of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis in a power-sharing agreement similar to the one that ended the 1990s war in Bosnia. Sen. Joseph Biden was a prime sponsor of the measure.

"This proposal was based on the incorrect reading and unrealistic estimations of Iraq's past, present and future,'' according to the statement read by Izzat al-Shahbandar, a representative of the Iraqi National List, a secular political party, during a news conference.

"(The proposal) opposes all laws of the international community and its legitimate institutions which protect all the rights of people in self-decision, building their future and defending their unity and sovereignty,'' he said, adding that the international community should denounce the proposal and "support Iraq in its crisis and its efforts to restore security and stability in all its areas.''

The Kurds in three northern Iraqi provinces support a formal division, but both Sunni and Shiite Muslims have denounced the proposal.

On Friday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told The Associated Press that "dividing Iraq is a problem, and a decision like that would be a Catastrophe".

Iraq's constitution lays down a federal system, allowing Shiites in the south, Kurds in the north and Sunnis in the center and west of the country to set up regions with considerable autonomous powers.