- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2007

The U.S. Embassy in Iraq yesterday criticized a Senate resolution that could lead to a division of the country into sectarian or ethnic territories, agreeing with a swath of Iraqi leaders by saying the proposal “would produce extraordinary suffering and bloodshed.”

The unusual statement from the Bush administration came just hours after representatives of Iraq“s major political parties denounced the U.S. Senate proposal calling for a limited centralized government with the bulk of the power given to the country”s Shi”ite, Sunni or Kurdish regions, saying it would seriously hamper Iraq”s future stability.

“Our goal in Iraq remains the same: a united, democratic, federal Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself,” the statement said.

The nonbinding Senate resolution adopted last week calls for Iraq to be divided into federal regions under control of Kurds, Shi”ites and Sunnis in a power-sharing agreement similar to the one that ended the 1990s war in Bosnia. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and presidential candidate, was a prime sponsor of the measure.

The Kurds in three northern Iraqi provinces are running a virtually independent country within Iraq, while nominally maintaining relations with Baghdad. They support a formal division, but Sunni and Shi”ite Muslims have denounced the proposal.

“Partition is not on the table,” the U.S. statement said. “The United States fully supports the Iraqis in their efforts to achieve peace and stability.”

At a press conference earlier yesterday, at least nine Iraqi political parties and party blocs representing Shi”ites and Sunnis said the Senate resolution would diminish Iraq”s sovereignty and called for an Iraqi law banning any division of the country along sectarian or ethnic lines.

“This proposal was based on the incorrect reading and unrealistic estimations of Iraq”s past, present and future,” according to the statement read by Izzat al-Shahbandar, a representative of the Iraqi National List, a secular political party.

The proposal “opposes all laws of the international community and its legitimate institutions which protect all the rights of people in self-decision, building their future and defending their unity and sovereignty,” he said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the Associated Press that “dividing Iraq is a problem, and a decision like that would be a catastrophe.”

Iraq”s constitution lays down a federal system, allowing Shi”ites in the south, Kurds in the north and Sunnis in the center and west of the country to set up regions with considerable autonomous powers.

Nevertheless, ethnic and sectarian turmoil have snarled hopes of negotiating such measures, especially given deep divisions on sharing the country”s vast oil resources. Oil reserves and existing fields would fall mainly into the hands of Kurds and Shi”ites if such a division were to occur.

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