Leaders break deadlock over debate on dividing Iraq

Leaders break deadlock over debate on dividing Iraq
September 24th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Leaders break deadlock over debate on dividing Iraq

Leaders break deadlock over debate on dividing Iraq
Media: AFP
Byline: Paul Schemm
Date: 24 September 2006

BAGHDAD, Sept 24, 2006 (AFP) - Iraqi leaders on Sunday averted a political
crisis by striking a compromise between warring Shiite and Sunni groups over
the issue of breaking the war-torn country into autonomous regions.

The end of a three-week stalemate strikes a rare note of compromise and
agreement in a country whose politics have taken on a sharply sectarian
character and is wracked by internecine violence as the Muslim holy month of
Ramadan begins.

Political party leaders agreed to hold a debate on federalism as urged by
Shiites and also to review the constitution as demanded by Sunnis.

"The first reading of the draft law for the formation of regions will be on
(Tuesday)," said deputy parliamentary speaker Khaled Attiya, adding this
would be preceded Monday by the formation of a committee to review the

The violence, however, ground on and at least 19 people were killed across
the country in insurgent attacks and explosions.

Sunnis originally rejected a Shiite draft law on dividing the country into
regions, sometimes even threatening to boycott the assembly.

At the same time, they demanded that before anything, a committee had to be
formed to study their long-held desire to amend the constitution.

The deal to allow both measures to move forward was reached in a closed door
meeting involving the Shiite list, the Kurdish Alliance, the Iraqiya list as
well as the Sunni parties.

"They have signed an agreement," confirmed powerful Shiite deputy Jalal
al-Din Saghir, adding he was cautiously optimistic the deadlock was over. "I
really pray for this, but you know politics."

The compromise ensures the constitutional committee will have a year to
amend the constitution, while the federalism law will not be implemented for
18 months after it has been passed.

Earlier, the Shiite alliance attempted to ram through parliament its draft
law that would allow it to fuse Iraq's Shiite southern provinces into a
single, oil rich autonomous region.

The Sunni coalition, together with other lawmakers, opposed the move
charging it would lead to the division of the country, a concern shared even
by some Shiite parties.

The ensuing deadlock, characterised by numerous delays and postponements of
parliament's activities, paralysed the elected body even as Iraq sank deeper
into ongoing violence.

On Sunday, a series of attacks killed 19 Iraqis a day after Sunnis, like
most of the rest of the Muslim world, marked the start of the fasting month
of Ramadan.

Iraq's majority Shiites begin fasting on Monday, an inadvertent sign of the
divisions separating Iraq's people, as Sunni rebels said they had executed
10 Shiites from India and Pakistan.

The Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sunna group said it had executed the men west
of Baghdad, claiming they had been sent by the Iranian-linked Badr movement,
a former militia.

Sunni insurgents started their promised campaign of attacks during the holy
month with a blast in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City Saturday killing
31 people, mostly women and children lining up to buy kerosene.

The bloody attack forced Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to urge for peace.

"I call on Iraqis to take advantage of this sacred month to reinforce
brotherly ties to reject division and anything that threatens the Iraqi
social fabric," Maliki said.

"Either we live side by side in a spirit of brotherhood, not separated by
ethnic or sectarian identifies, or Iraq becomes a battlefield for different
groups to settle their scores," he added.

Despite a tough Baghdad security plan in place since June, the government
has been largely unable to halt the violence.

"Before, people used to look forward to this month, but this year, with all
the brutal violence, there is nothing special about Ramadan," said Abu
Hassan, a middle-aged Sunni, at his electronics shop in the mostly Shiite
middle-class district of Karrada.

The perception that matters have only worsened since the US-led invasion is
not restricted to Iraqis, however, and according to two leading US
newspapers, US intelligence agencies say the March 2003 invasion has spawned
a new wave of Islamic terrorism.

Completed in April, the report "says that the Iraq war has made the overall
terrorism problem worse," The New York Times quoted one of the officials as

The findings contained in the National Intelligence Estimate appear to be in
stark contradiction with recent claims by President George W. Bush and other
top administration officials that victory in Iraq is the key to winning the
global war on terror.

In fact, said the Washington Post, the radical groups that have sprung up
since the invasion spread the message that the Iraq war is a Western attempt
to conquer Islam by first occupying Iraq and establishing a permanent
presence in the Middle East.

On Sunday, three car bombs went off in Baghdad claiming nine lives and
wounding dozens. Elsewhere 10 people were killed and two corpses were found.

Two US marines were killed in the strife-torn town of Fallujah, west of
Baghdad, bringing to 2,700 the number of US military deaths in Iraq since
the invasion.

The government also announced the leader of the hardline Sunni Brigades of
the 1920 Revolution had been arrested by the Iraqi army west of Baghdad,
without providing a name.

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