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Iraqis miss charter deadline again

FRIDAY, AUG. 26, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq’s ruling coalition missed another deadline to complete a constitution Thursday, putting off until Sunday a national assembly meeting to consider the document.

Shiite Muslim and Kurdish leaders, who dominate Iraqi politics, said they expected the document would be approved, while Sunni Muslim Arabs charged that the delay, the second missed deadline this week, violated the law and required that the national assembly be dissolved.

The Shiites and the Kurds have the clout to ignore Sunni complaints for now. The Sunnis have few seats in the national assembly because they largely boycotted last January’s election.

But the Sunnis are expected to turn out in larger numbers this fall when Iraqis are due to vote on the constitution. If the Sunnis are able to muster a two-thirds rejection of the document in three of the country’s 18 provinces, the referendum will be defeated and the process of drafting a new constitution will have to begin all over again.

Iraqi and American officials had hoped to rally Sunni support for the constitution and thus sap strength from the largely Sunni-backed insurgency.

But the delay in completing the document – it was first to have been submitted to the assembly by Aug. 15, a deadline that was extended to Monday – has left the ruling coalition looking confused in the midst of an explosion of violence.

Authorities reported the discovery Thursday of 36 bodies, found handcuffed, naked, shot and dumped by a road near Kut, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. There was no identification of the bodies.

The find came a day after fighting between rival Shiite sects killed as many as two dozen people in Najaf, and a daring daylight insurgent ambush left 13 police officers and 27 civilians dead in Baghdad.

Fighting between the rival Shiites appeared to have ended Thursday.

Laith Kuba, the spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, said negotiators were nearing completion of three disputed articles of the constitution that had been blamed for the document’s delay. He left little doubt that the Shiite and Kurdish factions intend to approve the document with or without Sunni support.

“By the end of the day, we should have a completed version of the draft,” he said. “It will not please everybody, but there’s an amendment to those three articles.”

He said, “The assembly will then rubber-stamp it.”

Shiite constitutional negotiator Jawad al-Maliki echoed the plan.

“What’s left is the voting,” al-Maliki said. “It’s up to them (the Sunnis). They either object, vote against it or accept it.”

But Sunni negotiator Hussein Shukr al-Falluji made it clear that his faction had no plans to support the document.

“We consider it an illegal constitution under the law,” he said. “They were supposed to finish it before the 22nd of August.”


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