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Iraq's Diyala province demands semi-autonomous status


09:56, December 13, 2011

BAQUBA, Iraq, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Iraq's eastern province of Diyala on Monday officially demanded to become a semi-autonomous region within the Iraqi state, following the footsteps of Salahudin, the first province that declared such a status.

A statement from Diyala's provincial council said the decision was made with the support of a majority of its 28 members, after 18 out of 23 present at Monday's session voted in favor of the semi-autonomous status.

"In response to the demand by the provincial tribal leaders and dignitaries, we officially declare that we have submitted a demand to the central government to announce the province of Diyala as a (semi-autonomous) region with maintaining Iraq's unity and full commitment to its constitution," Zyad Ahmed, a council member told reporters in the provincial capital of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad.

On October 27, Iraq's Sunni-dominated province of Salahudin declared itself as a semi-autonomous region within the Iraqi state.

Salahudin's move outraged Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government, who rejected the call, saying such a region could become a safe haven for the members of Saddam Hussein 's Baath party, which is banned.

Iraqi constitution says "one or more governorates (provinces) shall have the right to organize into a region based on a request to be voted on in a referendum submitted in one of the following two methods: First: a request by one-third of the council members of each governorate intending to form a region. Second: a request by one-tenth of the voters in each of the governorates intending to form a region.

Diyala's demand came days before the full departure of U.S. forces from Iraq, which is slated by the end of the year.

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