A federalized Iraq will split the country, declared Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki yesterday.

Maliki believes that federalization of Iraq in its current state will cause further deterioration of the country. Speaking at a ceremony in the Hindiya district, east of Karbala, Maliki said:

"We will not allow the establishment of federalism in the Iraqi provinces because it will be a cause for tearing the country.

"The urgency in the formation of federalism, in the current circumstances through which Iraq is passing, will create problems that we do not need."

But added: "We don't reject the demand but we say that the time is not appropriate for it."

The prime minister also said that calls for federalism by some parties was an attempt to get benefit of a constitutional requirement.

Maliki also said that only border provinces who had problems with their neighbors want federalism, but most Iraqis do not.

"The Iraqi people do not want to stir unrest and the things that keep them away from their main demands that are the provision of essential services such as electricity, water and infrastructure that were destroyed due to previous wars and made them suffer.

"Therefore we are continuing the national partnership government in meeting these demands.

"Then we will look at the formation of federals when there is economic and security stability for the country and citizen, and when we feel that these federations will not be a cause for division."

His speech coincides with a recent poll by local NGO Tammouz Organizatoin, in which 60% of respondents from nine Iraqi provinces believed that establishing regions in Iraq would lead to division.

However, the poll also showed that most people did not understand what regions or federalism meant.

The prime minister was at an event celebrating the annual anniversary of his Islamic party, Dawa, with families of martyrs and those affected by the previous regime.

Iraq is in political crisis as provinces declare or deliberate over independence.

Salahadin and Diyala have already declared regional autonomy, while more provinces, such as Anbar, Basra and Mosul, are considering such action in protest against feeling marginalized and neglected by the government.