Iraqi PM rejects calls for new semi-autonomous region

Iraqi PM rejects calls for new semi-autonomous region
# 29 October 2011 19:32 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki on Saturday rejected calls for a new semi-autonomous region earlier declared by the Sunni-dominated province of Salahudin, a statement from Maliki’s office said, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

"The Baath party wants Salahudin province to be safe haven for its members, but this will not happen," the statement quoted Maliki as saying in an interview with the state-run television of Iraqia, which is to be broadcasted late at night.

"Federalism is a constitutional issue, but the council of Salahudin province has no right to announce this," Maliki said.

Instead, the provincial council should have submitted a request to the cabinet and then to the parliament through other constitutional procedures, Maliki said.

However, the article 119 of the Iraqi constitution does not stipulate that provinces have to present a request to the cabinet or to the parliament.

"One or more governorates shall have the right to organize into a region based on a request to be voted on in a referendum submitted in one of the following two methods: First: A request by one-third of the council members of each governorate intending to form a region; Second: A request by one-tenth of the voters in each of the governorates intending to form a region.

On Thursday, Salahudin’s provincial council declared their province as a new semi-autonomous region within the Iraqi state after a row with the central government over arresting members of ex-president Saddam Hussein’s Baath party.

"The irresponsible actions of the central government against the people of the province were behind the decision (of announcing new region)," Sabbhan Mulla Chiyad deputy head of the council told Xinhua, referring to the latest ongoing roundup operations against hundreds of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party for allegedly plotting attacks to retake power after the withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2011.

The latest crackdown by Iraqi security forces on mainly Sunni Baath party members has ignited tension between the Sunni-backed political bloc of Iraqia, which condemned the operations, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government.

Sunnis see the arrests as part of attempts to further marginalize the minority group which ruled the country under Saddam’s Baath party.
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