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Iraq's vice president criticizes PM over the south

Iraq's vice president criticizes PM over the south

Iraq's vice president on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government of monopolizing power thus hindering reconstruction efforts in the country's Shiite south.
The stinging attack by Adel Abdul-Mahdi is part of an intensifying campaign against al-Maliki over his calls to amend the constitution to give the central government more powers and curtail those of provincial administrations. Al-Maliki argues the alternative to a strong central government would be chaos.
Abdul-Mahdi is a top leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the country's largest Shiite party and a rival of al-Maliki's Dawa party.
The Supreme Council has a vested interest in a decentralized federal system since it aspires to create and dominate a self-ruled region in southern Iraq that mirrors the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq and ensures the party's future as a major player.
The issue is coming to the fore with less than two weeks to go before Jan. 31 provincial elections that could reshape local power bases in the south and elsewhere.
Critics say the creation of an autonomous region in southern Iraq would effectively carve Iraq into a Shiite south, a mainly Sunni center and a Kurdish north and that the southern entity would likely fall under Iranian influence. Created in Iran in 1982, the Supreme Council is Tehran's closest ally in Iraq.
"The monopoly of power in Baghdad by the government and its ministries must be removed because it has become a hurdle to any development," said Abdul-Mahdi, who has this week toured seven of the nine Iraqi provinces south of Baghdad where he described conditions as "deplorable."
"Iraq cannot be left up to the thinking of one official or one department. The constitution and investment laws must be implemented," he added.
Abdul-Mahdi did not mention al-Maliki by name, but his comments were certain to feed the quarrel between the prime minister on one hand and the Supreme Council and its Kurdish allies on the other. The quarrel also is about al-Maliki's insistence over mounting opposition on the creation of tribal councils across Iraq to play a supporting role to security forces and provincial governments.
The Kurds and the Supreme Council say al-Maliki's councils are unconstitutional and charge they are meant to bolster the prime minister's Dawa party ahead of key provincial elections.
The president of the Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, renewed his criticism of the councils in a meeting Monday with Arab tribal leaders, describing them as "malicious."
Barzani has made clear his opposition was restricted to the recruitment by the councils of Kurdish clans, particularly those he said had collaborated with Saddam Hussein's regime in a series of brutal crackdowns against the Kurds.
With election-related violence on the rise ahead of the Jan. 31 vote, the head of the independent election commission said Tuesday that a nationwide vehicular curfew would be in force on voting day.
Faraj al-Haidari also told reporters the country's international borders and airports would be closed that day and travel between provinces would be banned.
Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf would not confirm al-Haidari's comments. Security measures for the vote in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces would be announced later, he said.
Also Tuesday, a senior Iraqi education official escaped an assassination attempt while traveling through central Baghdad, according to a government statement. The attempt came less than a week after the Minister of Higher Education escaped injury when a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy in the same district.
The statement said the ministry's undersecretary, Ammar Aziz Mohammed Ali, was not hurt when a roadside bomb hit his convoy midmorning Tuesday. A police officer at the scene said two civilians and three guards were injured. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information.
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Associated Press reporters Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Yahya Barzanji in Irbil contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-28 23:29 GMT+08:00