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Northern Iraqi governor cuts Baghdad power

The Associated Press
January 17, 2011
Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Yahya Barzanji
A local governor in Iraq's oil-rich north cut the electricity going to Baghdad from a power station in his province Monday because his own constituents have been left with little power this winter.
Tamim Gov. Abdul-Rahman Mustafa said residents in his province's capital city of Kirkuk only have three hours of power each day. The failure of negotiations with Iraq's Electricity Ministry to share the power generated at a plant in Taza, just south of Kirkuk, gave him little choice but to cut the electricity headed to Baghdad, he said.
"We have started to cut the megawatts generated by Taza station, and we will provide the Kirkuk people with it," Mustafa told reporters.
He estimated it would take 25 hours to shut down the power supply to Baghdad. Neighborhoods in the capital, according to the ministry, get 12 hours of electricity a day.
The director of the Taza plant, Jalal Ahmed, confirmed the ebb in power to Baghdad after its levels were dialed down from an electricity distribution station in Kirkuk.
Power shortages have been a sore spot for residents across Iraq, especially during the extreme cold and heat. Demonstrations over power shortages last summer in Iraq's south turned deadly in at least one case when police shot into crowds of protesters, sparking unrest that led to the dismissal of the government's electricity minister.
A Kirkuk councilman, Ahmed Askari, said local residents were threatening to launch their own protests "if the Kirkuk local government did not provide enough electricity to the people."
Shortly before the power was cut, demonstrators shut off a main northbound highway from Kirkuk, located 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, and threw rocks at approaching cars in an attempt to draw attention to the region's electricity woes.
The area around Kirkuk receives about 4 percent of the power provided by the national grid. Officials say Iraq has more power available now than ever, but it has been stretched thin by Iraqis buying more televisions, air conditioners and other appliances that weren't available when former president Saddam Hussein was in power.
Saddam also routinely diverted power to Baghdad at the expense of the rest of the county in the last years of his regime.
Electricity Ministry spokesman Mussab al-Mudaris said Kirkuk officials would have to formally apply to keep a larger share of power.
"We are waiting for the Kirkuk delegation to let us know their decision," al-Mudaris said. He had no further comment on the governor's move and an Iraqi government spokesman could not be reached despite repeated attempts Monday night.
In another struggle between local and central government authorities Monday, officials in Iraq's southern Basra province fired the city's police chief over a jailbreak Friday by 12 al-Qaida suspects who escaped from a detention center by wearing police uniforms.
But the chief, Maj. Gen. Adel Daham, refused to step down, saying he could only be replaced by order of the prime minister. He also announced that one of the 12 suspects had been recaptured late Monday in Basra.
The council also dismissed Army Brig. Gen. Hazim Qassim, who headed the intelligence office where the suspects were detained, and ordered him held for questioning.
Meanwhile, the governor of Iraq's western Anbar province survived his fourth assassination attempt in just over a year. Gov. Qasim al-Fahadawi, was not hurt in the blast in the provincial capital of Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, but one of his guards was killed while two others and three bystanders were wounded.
Barzanji reported from Sulaimaniyah, Iraq. AP Writers Saad Abdul-Kadir and Lara Jakes in Baghdad contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
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