News and opinions on situation in Iraq
15/08/04 Shi'a Council Members in Southern Iraq Call for Secession From Baghdad Control …
TMPress ™ – United News & Press Features ® From The Guardian

(TMPress International – The Guardian – New York – London – August 15, 2004) – Shi'a Council Members in Southern Iraq Call for Secession From Baghdad Control … As National Assembly conferences take place in Baghdad this weekend, Basra's Deputy Governor, Salam Uda al-Maliki, said he backed a breakaway or secession from Baghdad, as the interim government was `responsible for the Najaf clashes.'

In Nassiriya, meanwhile, Aws al-Khafaji, the representative of Moqtada al-Sadr, echoed the call. `We have had enough of Baghdad's brutality,' he said. `The authorities in Nassiriya will no longer cooperate with Baghdad.' He said it was a response to `the crimes committed against Iraqis by an illegal and unelected government, and occupation forces.'

Shi'a leaders in southern Iraq yesterday called for a breakaway movement from the central government in Baghdad to protest against the heavy-handed approach to the insurgency. The central health ministry said that at least 172 Iraqis had died and more than 600 had been injured since Wednesday in fighting across southern Iraq, this has caused at least two powerful and prominent Shi'a members of the local provincial government councils to call for the separation of the southern governorates from Baghdad control.

The provinces involved in possible secession include: Maysan, Al Basrah and Dih Qar, these include all of the southern oil terminals and operations south to Basra and Umm Qasr; although Baghdad and Allawi's officials have tried to downplay this possible action, it could happen! Such a move, if decided upon by the three governorates, could be legal according to the interim constitution, which Sh'ia leaders rejected when it was drawn up last March. Most of the big cities in southern Iraq have been caught up in the insurrection. Worst affected yesterday was Kut, where at least 72 people died, while fighting also raged in Al Amarah and Diwaniya.

Violence also broke out in the Shi'a districts of Sadr City and Shula in the Iraqi capital, as thousands of demonstrators in Baghdad, Basra and Nassiriya protested the Najaf offensive. A group of ten-thousand protesters have headed south to Najaf from Baghdad to stand with Sadr's forces and up to 1000 Iraqi National Guardsmen from the Basra area have said they will head north to support Sadr's forces in the South, along with hundreds of Iraqi police and civil defense corps units in the Shi'a southern regions, who are backing Sadr. 

The break-off in discussions between Baghdad officials and Sadr’s chief aides is being blamed on PM Allawi’s direct intervention with government negotiators – who were prepared to grant the cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, some breathing room – so he and his forces could leave the Imam Ali Shrine and let the Shi'a Ayatollah's authority take over the defense of the most revered mosque in Shi'a Islam. Central government officials have blamed Sadr's unbending demands to remain intact with his forces and for amnesty – PM Allawi and US military officials have flatly rejected that scenario. It seems Najaf and Southern Shi'a Iraq will now be on a direct collision course with PM Allawi in Baghdad and American military forces poised to lay siege to the city at the same time! – By John Osborne, Sr. Political Editor – TMPress International Newswire

© 2004 TMPress International Newswire. Reprint granted without fee or license, please feel free to query for reprint permission.

Article Sources/Citations: TMPress International, Michael Howard – The Guardian and international newswire services and networks.

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