Monday, October 01, 2007

“So you are going to divide our country?”

In Iraq, Repeated Support for a Unified State

Published: October 1, 2007

BAGHDAD, Sept. 30 — The American Embassy on Sunday reiterated its support for a united Iraq as six political parties together voiced their objection to a United States Senate resolution that endorsed partitioning the country into three states.

In a statement released Sunday, the embassy said: "Our goal in Iraq remains the same: a united democratic, federal Iraq that can govern, defend and sustain itself. Attempts to partition or divide Iraq by intimidation, force or other means into three separate states would produce extraordinary suffering and bloodshed."

The statement rebuffs the nonbinding Senate measure, sponsored by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, and approved last week, which calls for Iraq to be divided into federal regions controlled separately by Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. The proposal resembles the power-sharing arrangement used to end the 1990s war in Bosnia among Muslims, Serbs and Croats.

Many Iraqi politicians have reacted angrily to the proposal, suggesting that at the very least they find it presumptuous. Opposition to it has even found currency on the street, where Iraqis have volunteered their opinion to American reporters they encountered. Said one, "So you are going to divide our country?"

At a joint news conference on Sunday, six diverse political parties that are discussing the removal of the current government objected to a divided Iraq.

"We think this would complicate the security problem and Iraq would undertake a long-term war and a civil war more than we have witnessed already," said Basim Shareef, a member of the Fadhila Party, told reporters.

The Kurdish parties and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, led by the Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz Hakim, however, strongly support an arrangement in which much of the central government's power is devolved to the regions. The Kurds already run a semiautonomous state in the north, and the Supreme Council hopes to see the nine majority Shiite provinces in the south band together to form a Shiite region.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health announced that the toll from cholera had reached 14 deaths. Its spread is worst in northern Iraq, with the city of Kirkuk and surrounding Tamim Province reporting 2,096 cases of infection. There are also 655 people infected in Sulaimaniya, and 106 in Erbil. In Mosul, Baghdad, Tikrit and Basra the cases are still in the single digits.

There is no information on the provinces of Diyala and Anbar, where the security situation has made it difficult for health workers to reach the areas for testing.

In violence across Iraq, three Sunni imams were assassinated in Mosul on Saturday, and American and Iraqi forces reported clashes with armed insurgents over the past two days that they said they believed killed at least 60 gunmen.

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