Iraq PM rejects US Congress call for federalism

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Baghdad, Sep 28:  Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said today a US Senate resolution calling for the creation of separate Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish federal regions in Iraq would be a disaster for his country.

''They should stand by Iraq to solidify its unity and its sovereignty,'' Maliki told Iraqi state television on his flight back from the United Nations General Assembly.

''They shouldn't be proposing its division. That could be a disaster not just for Iraq but for the region.'' Maliki also called on the Iraqi parliament to meet and respond formally to the non-binding resolution, passed by the Senate on Wednesday, which called for the creation of ''a federal system of government and ... federal regions''.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which groups six Gulf Arab states allied with the United States, also criticised the resolution, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

''Just talk of Iraq's division would have severe consequences not only for Iraq but also for regional security and stability as well as world peace,'' the agency quoted GCC Secretary-General Abdul-Rahman al-Attiya as saying.

Iraq's northern Kurdish region already enjoys significant autonomy from Baghdad, with a separate Kurdish parliament. But Sunni and some Shi'ite Arabs oppose greater federalism which they see as a step towards dividing Iraq.

The Senate resolution urged U.S. President George W Bush to seek international support for such a political settlement and convene a conference with Iraqis to help them reach it.

''We reject this decision,'' Maliki said.


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