The oil industry heartland of Basra is demanding regional status in what may be the most serious threat to Baghdad’s hold over a country increasingly riven by sectarian strife.

Southern Iraq accounts for over 75% of total oil production and Basra houses the oil terminals that account for the majority of Iraq’s oil exports to world markets. The province wedged between Iran and Kuwait has taken umbrage at what local leaders see as Baghdad’s attempts to deprive it of a bigger share of oil revenues. (CONTINUED - 2712 WORDS)