03/01/2004, 00.00
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As draft of new constitution is signed some fears expressed

A commentary by Bishop S. Warduni

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Early this morning the Provisional Governing Council (PGC) ended their long meeting upon approving the draft of Iraq's temporary constitution.

The document will be signed this Wednesday on the Shiite holiday of Ashura (celebrating martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the son of Ali, and nephew/son-in-law of the great Prophet Mohammed). The last days' discussion dealt with difficult obstacles to overcome. The heart of  disagreement revolved around three points: federalism, the role of Islam and the role of women in the future of Iraqi society.    

PGC spokesman, Intifad Kanbar, pointed out that the main points  the new temporary constitution will guarantee  are "respect for the rights of all Iraqi citizens and that 25% of interim parliamentary seats will be reserved for women."

According to Kanbar, the constitution refers to Islam as "one source of legislation" but not the only one. However, the document's wording is followed by a binding paragraph, according to which "no law will be passed if going against the teachings of Islam." Kanbar said that "the language (of the draft) is structured in such a way so as not to offend the Islamic identity of the majority of the population, yet also so as to not offend others by giving them the impression that (Iraq) is an Islamic state."   

The Catholic bishop of Baghdad, Shlimon Warduni, told AsiaNews that he is gravely concerned about the paragraph of the article striking down any law contrary to Islamic teachings. "It is a dangerous precedent to set against other religious minorities and individual freedoms," he said, adding that "everything will be labeled anti-Islamic –for example according to this paragraph no woman will be able to be electe president of the Republic nor could there be, according to law, any bars selling alcohol or liquor stores, and so forth."

The pro tempore constitution temporarily allows for a government statute making Iraqi Kurdistan autonomous, while waiting for a future Iraqi government to make a permament decision on its status. All the other provinces in the country have the power to establish local governments, based on geographic location, not ethic composition. With these constitutional articles –while temporary –the PGC allows for a federal state to exist. The draft also recognizes Kurdish and Arabic as the two official state languages.  

The draft of the constitution also outlines the government's executive powers. Iraq will have a president, 2 vice presidents, a prime minister and a parliament. There is a section in the constitution dedicated to human rights, in which freedom of speech and religious expression are defended. The temporary constitution, called the "law of State management", will be in effect until next year's permanent constitution is approved. (PB)

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