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9/11/06

Debate on federalism bill in Iraqi parliament postponed to Sept 19

Baghdad, Sept 11, IRNA-A debate on federalism bill, submitted by the largest Shia Muslim bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, was postponed by parliament to September 19 amid objections from Iraqi Sunni population.

The bill calls for a three-part federation that would create a separate autonomous state in the predominantly Shia south like the zone run by Kurds in the north.


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A previous motion to discuss the bill Thursday set off acrimonious squabbling that led Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani to adjourn the session.

The Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni bloc, and another Sunni party, the National Dialogue Front of Saleh al-Mutlaq, boycotted Sunday's parliament session to protest the bill.

Ayad Jamal al-Deen, a member of the National List, warned that federalism is sowing discords among lawmakers.

"It is unwise to create a problem that provokes argument among the blocs," he said, adding that this could undermine the prime minister's national reconciliation plan that is seeking to bridge religious, political and ethnic gaps.

Parliament's Shia deputy speaker, Khalid al-Atiya, defended the bill, denying that federalism is meant to destroy Iraq as a unified state.

The idea that the legislation will divide the country "is a misleading one and agitates public opinion without any reason," al-Atiya told reporters.

"Approving legislation for federalism doesn't mean that we will initiate moves to establish autonomous regions the next day." The concept of federalism is enshrined in the new Iraqi constitution, and there is already an autonomous Kurdish region in the north.

However, special legislation and a referendum would be needed to turn Iraq into a full federation.

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