BAGHDAD, Sept 6: Iraq’s dominant Shia alliance submitted a draft of a new law on Wednesday to govern the division of the country into autonomous regions. The United Iraqi Alliance is promoting a ‘law of regional formation’ so that the oil-rich, Shia-dominated southern Iraq can win self-rule on the model of the autonomous Kurdish north.

“The law will define how the regions are formed and whether it will be done by the governing council or through popular referendum,” said party member Hamid Mualla al-Saadi.

Sunni lawmakers have vociferously opposed the draft law on autonomous regions, saying it is a prelude to a carve-up of the country, which would leave them with just the resources-poor centre and west of Iraq.

But in recent days they appear to have softened their opposition, saying they would support the ‘administrative application of federalism’ as long as a strong central government remains.

In Baghdad, the Iraqi government announced that it and the US military would sign a delayed accord on Thursday under which the US-led forces will hand command of Iraqi armed forces to the government.

The agreement was initially due to be signed on Sept 2, but the handover ceremony was abruptly cancelled after disagreement on the Iraqi side over who should sign the handover on the government’s behalf.

A government spokesman said Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki will name a senior official to sign the agreement, but did not reveal his identity. The accord means setting up a joint military command for the army, navy and air force that will gradually take full operational control of Iraq’s armed forces.—AFP

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