Iraqi Shiites Vow To Submit Charter

Iraqi Shiites Vow To Submit Charter
Another Deadline Is Missed As Some Sunnis Reject Draft

By Jonathan Finer and Omar Fekeiki
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, August 27, 2005; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Aug. 27 -- As another midnight deadline to complete a draft
constitution passed Friday without definitive agreement among Iraq's main
factions, ruling Shiite Muslim parties said they would present a final
version to the National Assembly this weekend with no further changes, even
though it was rejected by several Sunni Arab leaders.

As some lawmakers said negotiations were continuing into the early hours of
Saturday and others claimed an accord had been reached that many Sunnis
would endorse, government spokesman Laith Kubba told al-Arabiya television
that "consensus is almost impossible at this point."

"The draft should be put before the people," he said, referring to the
nationwide referendum on the document that must be held by Oct. 15. Many
Sunni Arab leaders have urged their followers to vote against the
constitution, which can be rejected if two-thirds of the voters in at least
three of Iraq's 18 provinces oppose it.

The completed document will be presented to the National Assembly on
Saturday or Sunday with or without Sunni backing, Humam Hamoudi, a Shiite
who is chairman of the constitution-writing committee, told the Associated

Also Friday, the U.S. military said it launched multiple strikes with F-18
fighter jets against a house in the western town of Husaybah that local
informants said was sheltering about 50 suspected insurgents from the group
al Qaeda in Iraq. The military said the number of casualties had not been

The highly politicized process of writing Iraq's constitution revealed and
reinforced deep divisions among Iraq's Shiite and Sunni Arabs and ethnic
Kurds, raising fears that disagreements could spiral into factional

In an attempt to foster consensus, an Aug. 15 deadline for completing a
draft was postponed by one week and subsequently extended twice more.
Friday's was the first deadline to pass without an official statement
granting more time, as a news conference scheduled for just before midnight
was canceled.

In recent days, President Bush, who along with other U.S. officials had
urged Iraqi leaders to complete their work on time, personally intervened by
telephoning Abdul Aziz Hakim, leader of the largest Shiite political party,
the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, to encourage
conciliation with the Sunnis. U.S. and Iraqi officials have long maintained
that inclusion of the Sunni Arabs, a once-dominant minority who now make up
much of the violent insurgency, is a key to stability and the eventual
withdrawal of American troops.

In Washington, a senior State Department official involved in Iraq policy
said: "What we're witnessing is the endgame of this process. Events are
moving in a positive direction. They're continuing to work these issues, but
they're moving in the right direction."

Deliberations bogged down Friday over two contentious issues that were as
much about Iraq's troubled past as its future: whether and how to bar former
members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from political life, and the extent
and method by which to devolve power from the federal government to
autonomous regions that suffered greatly under Hussein's rule.

Shiites said they offered to eliminate language outlawing the Baath Party,
whose top officials were mostly Sunnis, while retaining a ban on its
"Saddamist" branch and symbols. They also offered to permit the National
Assembly, by a majority vote, to eliminate the so-called de-Baathification
committee charged with removing former party members from government

On federalism, or the ability of Iraq's provinces to form regional
governments, Shiites said they proposed enshrining the principle of
federalism in the constitution while leaving the details of how federal
regions should be formed to future lawmakers. Some Shiites said they had
agreed to have the constitution stipulate that no new regional governments
be formed for at least two years.