Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Shiite Leader Says He Wants Federal Region

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A leading Shiite lawmaker suggested Monday that he will pursue a federal region in southern Iraq after next month's elections, pushing forward demands for Shiite autonomy that Sunni leaders fear could tear the country apart.

"We have major missions ahead," Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who heads the largest bloc in the interim parliament, told a gathering of tribal leaders. "The central and southern regions should be achieved after the elections" set for Dec. 15.

According to Iraq's new constitution, the country's 18 provinces - except for Baghdad - can combine to create self-ruled areas. Kurds have such a region in the north and Sunni Arabs fear that a similar Shiite-run mini-state in the south would deprive them of a share of the nation's oil wealth - concentrated in those two areas."


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