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Iraqi south to announce secession

Rediff Newsdesk | August 12, 2004 20:44 IST

Basra Deputy Governor Salam Uda al-Maliki says he plans to announce the separation of some Iraqi southern governorates from the rest of the country, claiming the interim Iraqi government was responsible for the clashes in Najaf, according to Al Jazeera, the news organization based in the Middle East.

The governorates that may join the new province are Basra, Misan and Dhi Qar governorates, sources told the television channel which reported that Al-Maliki also wants to shut down Basra port, halting oil exports.

Ali Hamud al-Musawi, head of the Misan governorate council, supported the plan of what he called "our brothers in Basra" and told Al Jazeera that al-Malki's decision was a reasoned one.

"The feelings of Iraqi southerners in particular, and Iraqis in general, [has been one of] contempt," al-Musawi told the channel, claiming that the current plan was a response to crimes committed against Iraqis by an illegal and unelected government, and occupation forces that claimed to have come to liberate Iraq.

"We are discussing the decision and we will stop Misan's oil flow, until Baghdad's government restores its logic and realises that millions of Iraqis care for the people of Najaf and Karbala," he said.  He warned that interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi should expect no support from his group.

"We support the unity of Iraq when there is an Iraqi government that acknowledges all people's rights," al-Musawi said.

But, the channel reported, Adnan al-Janabi, an interim Iraqi government minister, has played down the call to break up the country.

"The Basra deputy governor is merely an Iraqi official in the municipal council of Basra, and does not represent the government," he told Al Jazeera.

"We do not recognise him. Let him [al-Maliki] say whatever he likes," al-Janabi told the channel, denying that the government was negotiating with Shia Muslim leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mehdi army is taking on the occupation force in Najaf.

"They [al-Sadr militias] are outlawed. They must go out of Najaf," al-Janabi told the channel.

Al Jazeera said plans have been floating for breaking the country up into three states, a Kurdish one in the north, an Arab Sunni Muslim one in the centre and an Arab Shia Muslim state in the south.

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