2 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, August 15, 2005
Sunnis pressured to accept Iraq constitutioni
Federalism, sharing oil
revenue and the role of Islam
remain hang-ups just days
before constitution deadline
BAGHDAD, Iraq - American and U.N.
diplomats stepped up pressure Saturday on
Sunni Arabs to accept a new constitution
with only two days before the deadline for its
approval. A top Sunni official said his group
would never accept terms that would lead to
the division of the country.
President Jalal Talabani predicted a draft consti-
tution will be ready by Monday's deadline, and a
Kurdish official said the draft would be presented to
parliament with or without Sunni approval.
With time running out, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay
Khalilzad and U.N. envoy Ashraf Qazi met separate-
ly with Sunni leaders but failed to persuade them to
accept a federal system.
"We will not be subdued and will continue
to cling to our stance," Sunni negotiator Kamal
Hamdoun said. "We don't accept federalism ...
We don't want federalism. We are confident that
federalism means division and federalism cannot
be approved at this time."
The final negotiations on the document - a key
part ofthe political process the United States is count-
ing on to curb a Sunni-dominated insurgency - took
place against the backdrop of continuing violence.
Bombs and gunfights killed at least 12 people,
and a U.S. armored vehicle was set ablaze in eastern
Baghdad. No American casualties were reported.
In his weekly radio address, President Bush said
Saturday that the Iraqi constitution "is a critical step
on the path to Iraqi self-reliance."
Talabani told reporters that negotiations were con-
centrating on the question of whether to transform
Iraq into a federal system and the role of Islam. Sun-
nis have accepted the 14-year-old Kurdish self-ruled
area in the north but do not want to see the system
"We have gone forward," Talabani said.
"There is a meeting today and another meeting
tomorrow and God willing we will finish the
job tomorrow" - one day ahead of the dead-
line for parliament to approve the charter.
Negotiations were thrown into a tailspin Thursday
when the leader of the biggest Shiite party, Abdul-
Aziz al-Hakim, called for a Shiite autonomous gov-
ernment in central and southern Iraq, including the
southern oil fields. That enraged Sunni Arab del-
egates, who fear federalism will lead to the disinte-
gration of Iraq.
Hamdoun said the Sunnis did not consider them-
selves bound by an agreement worked out between
the Shiites and Kurds. He said the Sunni Arabs were
under "Iraqi and non-Iraqi pressure" but "we are not
affected by pressure."
Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish parliamentarian
and member of the committee drafting the constitu-
tion, said the Shiites and Kurds had reached a num-
ber of agreements and were working to persuade the
Sunnis to join them.
But, he cautioned, "If the Sunnis refuse to accept
the agreements, we will present the draft as it is to the
That strategy could backfire, however, in the Oct.
15 referendum when voters will be asked to ratify
the constitution. According to the country's interim
charter, the constitution will be void if it is rejected
by two-thirds of voters in three of the 18 provinces.
Sunni Arabs are a majority in four.
Sunni Arabs were to meet Sunday with members
of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's secular party
while the Shiites were to confer with Kurds, Iraqi
officials said, adding that Khalilzad was expected to
attend both sessions.
Othman said Kurds and Shiites had agreed that
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, third from left, speaks with former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, second left, on At
14. As of Sunday, the new Iraqi constitution had yet to be approved.
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