Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Thursday warned of calls for forming regions that may divide the country, saying such division would bring the country into a civil war.
Maliki's remarks came amid political debate during the past several days about complains of marginalization by the Iraqi Sunni Arab minority that could push them to demand federal region or separation.
"Today, nobody is marginalized in Iraq. I confidently say the government treats all Iraqis, provinces, political blocs and parties equally," Maliki said during a meeting with Baghdad's tribal leaders and dignitaries.
Maliki rejected calls from some Iraqi politicians about forming new regions or separation from Iraq according to the country's constitution.
"The Iraqi constitution may include the formation of regions with norms and regulations, but does not include the idea of creating an atmosphere of separation and division of Iraq," Maliki said.
"I say to all those parties who call for federal regions or separation: have mercy on the Iraqi people and mercy on Iraq and its unity, because if this happens, people will fight each other," Maliki warned without naming the parties.
Late last month, Osama al-Nujaifi, a key leader of the Sunni- backed Iraqia parliamentary bloc and the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, was on a visit to Washington and told the U.S. government-owned al-Hurra television channel that Iraq's Sunni minority was "frustrated" and might declare "a region" of its own in the country.
"As a matter of fact they (the Sunnis) have strong feelings of frustration. They feel they are second-class citizens and are not partners in the government," Nujaifi said in an interview.
"If this is not solved quickly and in a prudent way before things get worse, they might think about separation or taking measures to ensure their rights," he said.
Nujaifi's remark outraged Shiite politicians in Iraq who launched a petition in the parliament to summon the speaker to explain his remarks and answer questions by the lawmakers.
On June 30, Nujaifi clarified his comments during a parliament session in Baghdad, saying that his remarks were made in reaction to a question from a journalist and he did not say he wanted the creation of a Sunni autonomous region, but he warned that Sunnis would call for a region if their needs were not met by the current system.
"I did not call for a Sunni region in Iraq. I just answered a press question about the condition of the Sunnis in Iraq," said Nujaifi.
"I would have answered the same question if it was about the condition of the Shiites or the Kurds in Iraq. During my visits to the Iraqi (Sunni) provinces, I felt a sense of frustration in the people and authorities in those provinces due to interference by the federal government in their provincial affairs and not giving enough funds to bring about (economic) growth to their provinces," Nujaifi said.
According to the Iraqi constitution, any province or group of provinces can form such a region within federal Iraq.