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Senate vote to regionalize Iraq spurs confusion, criticism

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. Embassy disavows Senate resolution calling for federal regions
  • Iraqi Foreign Minister: Vote has caused "a great deal of confusion" in Baghdad
  • At least 62 American troops have died this month; August 2006 toll was 65
  • U.S. military credits troop increase, but says toll still too high
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad disavowed a Senate resolution calling for dividing Iraq into federal regions, a move Iraqi leaders condemned Sunday as a violation of Iraq's sovereignty.

U.S. troops search a woman's home northeast of Baghdad in Baquba, Iraq, on Sunday.

"As we have said in the past, attempts to partition or divide Iraq by intimidation, force or other means into three separate states would produce extraordinary suffering and bloodshed," the embassy said in a written statement. "The United States has made clear our strong opposition to such attempts."

"Partition is not on the table," the embassy statement read.

The resolution, which the Senate approved Thursday on a 75-23 vote, called for Washington to support "a political settlement among Iraq's major factions based upon the provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told CNN the resolution has caused "a great deal of confusion" in Baghdad. And Iraqi political parties representing a majority of the country's parliament blasted the proposal as "a threat to Iraq sovereignty and unity."

The constitution Iraqi voters approved in 2005 calls for the creation of federal regions similar to the Kurdish territory in the country's north. But Iraq's parliament has so far failed to enact legislation that would set up those districts, and the nonbinding resolution American lawmakers approved urged the Bush administration to step up that process.

The "fundamental" principle of the resolution is that Iraq will not be "governed from the center anytime soon," said Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden on Thursday.

"And I am not prepared for my son and his generation to continue to shed their blood in an effort to do that."

Biden is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Democratic presidential candidate. He has long advocated the division of Iraq into Sunni Arab, Shiite Arab and Kurdish territories that would be loyal to a central government in Baghdad.

His resolution was co-sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a Republican presidential hopeful.

"This is not a perfect solution by any means," Brownback said. "As an American, I look at it as a sub-par solution altogether, because I think they would be much better off if they could get along and form one country and operate it as one country."

But that scenario, Brownback said, "does not reflect the realities on the ground."

Zebari told CNN's "Late Edition" that the resolution "has created a backlash, but it needs to be explained more."

"I think the resolution is in line with what the constitution -- the Iraqi Constitution -- has called for to establish a federal democratic Iraq in the future," he said.

"No Iraqi is for dividing their country or for splitting it into three weak states, unable to survive," he added.

The Shiite Muslim United Iraqi Alliance, the largest bloc in Iraq's parliament, condemned regionalizing the nation. Other parties against the move include the Sadr Bloc, led by anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr; and the Iraqi Accord Front, the largest Sunni party.

"We call the Arab League to condemn the resolution, and we call [on] all Iraqis to demonstrate against the resolution," the parties' statement read.

Nassar al-Rubaie, a lawmaker from al-Sadr's party, suggested parliament adopt the U.S. plan. But, he added, "It will not be applied until the last American soldier leaves Iraq."

But the U.S. Embassy said the Bush administration's "firm policy" is to support "a stable, secure, and unified Iraq."

Monthly death toll drops

The U.S. monthly death toll in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level in more than a year, although the figure is "still too high," the military said Sunday.

September's preliminary death toll is at least 62, according to military reports, the lowest number since August 2006 when 65 American troops were killed in the war.

Military spokesman Rear Adm. Mark Fox said the lower toll resulted from a "combination of a number of factors" put in place by this year's increase in U.S. forces in Iraq.

However, said Fox, there's no feeling among the military that "we've accomplished what we're going to accomplish here. We still have a lot of hard work to do."

He said "casualty figures are still too high" and as a result, the military is "not in any way resting on any laurels" because "violence levels in Iraq are too high."

The figures were supplied by the U.S. military in a September 30 news release.

As for Iraqi civilian deaths, authorities reported 296 bodies found dumped in Baghdad this month -- the lowest monthly total this year. In August, there were 428 bodies found.

Authorities believe the dumped bodies are most often a result of fighting between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The U.S. troop increase was in part designed to reduce such sectarian violence, officials said.

Attacks across Iraq have dropped "to their lowest levels" since February 2006 when the bombing of Samarra's Askariya Mosque sparked a national wave of fighting between followers of the two sects, according to Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the Multi-National Corps.

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The mosque, also known as the Golden Dome, is considered by Shiites as one of the sect's holiest sites. The attack caused the top of the mosque's dome to collapse.

During the past year, civilian casualties in Baghdad dropped from an average of 32 per day to 12, Odierno said on September 20. He said violence is down 50 percent in the capital but did not elaborate on how that figure was determined. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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