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Sunday, July 17, 2011     GET REAL

Sunnis cite broken power-sharing promise, threaten to secede from Iraq

BAGHDAD — Iraq is facing the prospect of secession by its minority Sunni community.


A leading Sunni politician warned that his community could decide to break away from Shi'ite-led Iraq. The politician said the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has failed to honor his pledge to share power.

"This should treated wisely and quickly before things develop to where they [Sunnis] think of a kind of separation to guarantee rights," Iraqi parliamentary speaker Osama Al Nujaifi said.

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In an interview to the U.S.-owned Al Hurrah television, Al Nujaifi said Sunnis felt like second-class citizens in Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. His warning of secession has sparked criticism within his Iraqiya bloc, headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Alawi and regarded as winner of parliamentary elections in 2010.

The Sunni threat has been taken seriously by Al Maliki. On July 7, the prime minister, who addressed Sunni tribes, said any secession from Iraq would result in bloodshed.

"Whether you want to form [autonomy] or separate, I say show mercy to the Iraqi people and the unity of Iraq," Maliki said. "Because if this happens, people will fight each other and blood will reach to the knee."

Officials acknowledged that the Baghdad government has lost control over much of the Sunni community, particularly in the western province of Anbar. They said Sunni tribes in Anbar were being supported by neighboring Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

"Our problem in this country is that we do not consider each other as partners," Al Maliki said. "Let's do that, and the problem will be ended. Not accepting others as partners intensifies the situation and threatens the unity of Iraq."

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