Mohamed al-Dayni, a Sunni parliamentarian from the Iraqi National Dialogue Front party, said on Sunday that Kurds had removed the Iraqi national flag from all government buildings in a town bordering the autonomous Kurdish region.

 

"We call upon the Iraqi president, parliament speaker and prime minister to adopt the appropriate measures and punish parties behind this issue in order to maintain the national unity of this country," al-Dayni said, prior to a parliament session.

 

The Kurdish region has gained more autonomy since the 2003 US-led invasion, which many Iraqi leaders, especially Sunni Arabs, see as a worrying development.

 

Geographical dispute

 

The dispute began on September 1 when Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader, ordered the country's national flag to be replaced by the Kurdish tricolor on all government buildings within the Kurdish region.

 

"No official measures have been adopted yet and the Iraqi flag is still hoisted on the governmental buildings"

Abdul-Hussein Abbas, mayor of Mandali

Al-Dayni said a group of Kurds replaced the flags on government buildings on Saturday in Mandali, a town just outside the Kurdish region in Diyala province, about 100 km (60 miles) east of Baghdad. The town is populated mainly by Shia Kurds.

 

Abdul-Hussein Abbas, the mayor of Mandali, said that 17 of the 21 members in the local council had voted for the town to become a part of Kurdistan by joining the Kurdistan regional government.

 

But he denied that the Kurdish flag had been raised in there.

 

"No official measures have been adopted yet and the Iraqi flag is still hoisted on the governmental buildings," Abbas said. 

 

"We are still part of Diyala province for the time being."

 

However Raad Rashid Jawad, governor of Diyala province, said he would not allow the town to become part of Kurdistan.

 

"Mandali is within the geographical borders of Diyala," he said.

 

Iraq's first interim governing council after the fall of Saddam Hussein decided to change the country's flag, however no official version has yet been adopted.