Basra wants Bigger Say, More Autonomy

"Just as the constitution gave rights to the region, it also gave similar rights to the producing provinces ... Today, the Kurdish region signs a deal with ExxonMobil and the central government objects, it is double standards," said Bazouni.

"Part of what drove us to demand regional autonomy is that political problems are usual in Baghdad not in Basra, where the governing parties are a known quantity," said Ghanem Abdul-Amir al-Maliki, a member of Basra Provincial Council.

"It is clear that the Kurdistan region is stable to a large degree because the governing parties there are a known factor ... In Baghdad, everyone is trying to please his own party on the account of others. We want to get rid of the political infighting in Baghdad by setting up a region."

Provinces need a public referendum and parliamentary approval to attain regional autonomy. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who took part in writing the constitution in 2005, supports powerful central government.

In the mainly Shi'ite oil hub of Basra, autonomy talk has bubbled for years. Basra sent a formal request for autonomy more than a year ago, but has had no response from Baghdad.

(Source: Reuters)

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