02/28/2004, 00.00
iraq
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Islamist defeat in Provisional Governing Council

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The deadline for drawing up a temporary draft of an Iraqi constitution is today, while dissent is seen inside the Provisional Governing Council (PGC).

The problem dividing PGC members revolves around two points: 1) federalism as requested by Kurds and Christians who are against Arabs and Turkmens and 2) the Islamic nature of law. 

Iraq's PGC is composed of 25 members who are nominated by Coalition authorities. Members include 13 Shiites, 11 Sunnis (5 Kurds, 5 Arabs and 1 Turkmen) and 1 Christian. The presidency is assigned to each of the 25 members by turn for one month, according to the alphabetical order of their surnames.

Yesterday marked the defeat of Islamists within the Council, when PGC members voted to reject Resolution 137, heavily favored by Islamists. The law proposal placed civil state bureaucracy and registry management under the authorities of religious tribunals. In the country's former constitution such issues were placed under the jurisdiction of civil courts. 

Many Iraqis criticized Resolution 137, especially women who risked losing their rights acquired in the past, as the law proposal slipped even more into Islamic law. One woman member of the PGC,  Dr. Rajab al-Khuza'i, had sparked discussion on the resolution.    

Fifteen PGC members voted to revoke Resolution 137, while 9 members voted against and 1 abstained.

After the resolution was rejected, Shiite members of the PGC left the room to protest, interrupting discussion and meetings on other articles of the draft constitution.

Two positions are waged among the Shiite population, one which is more fundamentalist in nature while the other more mainstream.  

Imam Muktada al-Sadr is a representative of the fundamentalist position. Yesterday, during his Friday sermon in Kufa, he asked that "faithful be ready (upon rebellion) as soon as the order is given to fight against (foreign) occupation." Al-Sadr stressed in his homily that "Americans have come only to do harm to Islam, but occupying forces will not be able to get rid of Islam."

The mainstream position is held by Ayatollah al-Sistani, one of the highest Shiite authorities throughout the world. Yesterday he said he agreed with the UN special envoy, Lakhdar al-Ibrahimi, who believes it is not possible to hold general elections prior to June 30, the date when power will be officially handed over to Iraqi authorities. Al Sistani has asked that elections be guaranteed to occur before the end of the year.  (PB) 
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See also
Imam Muqtada Al-Sadr threatens to launch Intifada
19/02/2004
Signing of temporary constitution considered an "historic moment"
08/03/2004
Head of Governing Council killed in car bombing
17/05/2004
Ayatollah al-Sistani criticizes the United States, but accuses neighbouring countries
03/03/2004
Attacks waged in Shiite mosques in Karbala and Baghdad
02/03/2004


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