BAGHDAD -- The situation in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, is not getting any better in terms of security or basic services, and the whole surrounding province of Nineveh has been partitioned along ethnic lines, Iraq's Planning Minister has told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq.
Ali Baban said he had made repeated visits to the northern city and "every time I find a dire security situation, worsening living standards and a discontented populace."
The minister added that "some areas are run by the provincial government while others [are run] by the Kurdish regional government," adding that "this is the result of political incompetence and factional struggles."
Baban warned that the situation in Mosul, his hometown, could get out of control if no solution was found soon to the province's problems.
Mosul is considered one of the last strongholds of the mainly Sunni Arab insurgency in Iraq, and attacks in and around the city are still a frequent occurrence.
But the deputy chairman of Nineveh's provincial council, Dildar Zebari, told RFI that Baban's statements betrayed "a lack of awareness of the reality on the ground and the improvement that has occurred."
Zebari, a Kurd allied with the Arab bloc on the provincial council, said that "parliament should pass a code of conduct against electioneering."
Iraq is holding parliamentary elections March 7.
Provincial council member Qusay al-Shabaki told RFI that "the situation in the provincial capital Mosul has indeed seen a measure of improvement, but there have recently been tensions in parts of the province, especially the so-called disputed areas, and the central government is to blame for pulling out its forces to let the Peshmerga [Kurdish militia] in."
Resident Ahmad Khidayir told RFI that the Baghdad government was urging reconciliation between the Arab and Kurdish factions in the multi-ethnic province "because nothing can be done without unity."
In the January 31, 2009, provincial elections the Arab nationalist Hadbaa List in the predominantly Sunni province of Nineveh came first with 19 seats on the provincial council and the Kurdish-led Brotherhood bloc came second with 12 seats.
The big increase in Arab representation fueled tensions between Kurds and Arabs in Mosul.