08/28/2005, 00.00
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Iraqi parliament considers charter, Sunnis still opposed

Baghdad (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - A final version of Iraq's long-delayed constitution has been presented to parliament, but Sunni negotiators have immediately expressed their hostility to the text. The Sunnis' rejection - and their prediction that the charter would be thrown out in a referendum - came despite minor concessions to them in the draft by the Shi'ites and Kurds who dominate parliament.

A member of the drafting committee read the text to the house, but the vote was adjourned.

Hussein al-Falluji, a Sunni delegate of the drafting committee said : "We have not agreed on this constitution". Then referring to the referendum to be held by Oct. 15, he added that " people will say 'No' to the 'American' constitution".

For its ratification, the constitution needs the approval of a majority of voters across the country and not to be rejected by two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates. Although the Sunnis are a minority, they comprise a majority in three of Iraq's 18 provinces. Mustering two-thirds of the vote there would allow them to block the charter under regulations set down in an interim constitution.

Five senior Sunni Arabs in the government also spoke out against the draft constitution - raising objections to 13 provisions in the text.

The text read out in parliament suggested limited concessions to the Sunnis -- who lost their political dominance with the fall of president Saddam Hussein -- notably with regard to members of his party. It bans "the Saddamist Baath and its symbols", omitting the phrase "Baath party", which was included in an earlier draft. Sunnis had pressed for the removal of any clauses in the draft that bar party members from public life, arguing that not all of them have blood on their hands.

The text sticks to wording that says Iraq is "part of the Islamic world and its Arab people are part of the Arab nation". Sunnis, and some Shi'ites, who are also Arabs, wanted it to say that Iraq as a whole is part of the Arab world. The Kurds of the north are Muslims, but not Arabs. The preamble made clear that Iraq was a federal republic. Sunnis' main objection has been to federalism, which they fear could lead to the break-up of the country and leave them with a rump state minus the rich oil zones in the north and south.

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