Tomorrow Shiite members will sign the interim constitution with no change

Baghdad (AsiaNews/agencies)  - Shiite politicians have met Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani in Najaf on Sunday and concluded that they will sign the Iraqi interim constitution on Monday.

The 5 Shiite politicians are all members of the Iraqi Governing Council. They met the powerful Ayatollah at his home in the holy city of Najaf on Sunday to discuss how to resolve the impasse over the constitution. The five had refused to sign the constitution on Friday because of al-Sistani's objections  - angering other members, some of whom saw the move as a Shiite attempt to grab more power. Sunni and Kurd council members refused to change the charter.

After the Najaf talks, it appeared the Shiites were backing down in their refusal. "Sistani has reservations, but it will not constitute an obstacle," said Mohammed Hussein Bahr al-Ulloum, who helped coordinate the talks on behalf of his father, council president Mohammad Bahr al-Ulloum. "It will be signed as it was agreed upon before by the Governing Council members," the son said.

The approval of an interim constitution is a key step in the U.S.-backed plan to hand over power to the Iraqis on June 30. The document will remain in effect until the end of 2005 after a permanent charter is approved.

The Shiite politicians said they were optimistic the constitution will be signed Monday. "The news is very good and we are going to sign it on Monday," council member Mouwafak al-Rubaie said Sunday. "We are glad that the grand ayatollah understood our position." The council was to meet Monday morning to discuss the results of the talks with al-Sistani. Salem Chalabi  - a top adviser in the Iraqi National Congress, a political party whose leader refused to sign on Friday - said he was confident the interim constitution would be signed on the same day.

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