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Iraqi leaders delay crucial constitutional conference

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A crucial national meeting of Iraqi leaders scheduled for Friday to resolve constitutional problems was postponed for two days because of an emergency meeting of the Kurdish autonomous parliament.
source: kurdish media


The delay came against a backdrop of unremitting violence that has killed about 40 military personnel in 10 days, and new Al-Qaeda warnings that the
United States and Britain risked more death and destruction if they do not leave Iraq and other Muslim lands.

"The meeting of leaders was delayed from today to Sunday in order to allow for a greater number of participants to attend as a large number of people had not received invitations," a spokesman at President Jalal Talabani’s office said.

Talabani had called the meeting to break the deadlock on a new constitution and resolve outstanding questions which constitutional committee members have so far failed to agree.

The issues include federalism, official languages, the relation between religion and state, the name of the republic, the rights of women and the question of the oil-rich centre of
Kirkuk which Kurds want included in their own autonomous region.

Iraqi leaders have pledged to draft a new constitution by August 15 ahead of a referendum in mid-October, to be followed by elections in mid-December and the inauguration of a new government at the start of 2006.

Mahmud Othman, a Kurdish member of the constitutional committee, told AFP the national conference was delayed because of an emergency meeting Saturday of the Kurdish autonomous parliament to discuss the charter.

Kurdish leader Massud Barzani "cannot come to
Baghdad before Sunday" because of the parliamentary meeting, Othman said.

"The leadership in
Kurdistan asked for the Kurdish committee members to come back and explain to our parliament what has been discussed in Baghdad," said Falah Mustafa, a spokesman for Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party.

"We are worried about comments from some on the committee regarding federalism, Kurdish rights, democracy and women’s rights," Adnan Mufti, head of the Kurdish regional parliament and senior official of Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party told AFP from Arbil.

He said the Kurds are ready to endorse the charter "if all parties understand that a constitution should be based on rights for all Iraqis, if not we cannot reach an agreement."

"We are insisting on federalism, there is no way to have a unified
Iraq without federalism."

Mufti hoped others in
Baghdad would accede to Kurdish federalist demands, but said three issues could be problematic -- the future of Kirkuk, the name of Iraq and the role of Islam.

"We want Islam to be a main source of legislation, but not the main source," Mufti said. "
Iraq is a country for all -- Christians and Yezidis, as well as Sunni and Shiite."

The conference is due to report back by August 12, and any matters still unresolved will be put to the full parliament for decision by majority vote.

Iraq will be a parliamentary republic with a strong prime minister and a figurehead president, according to the latest draft of the constitution.

There has been no let-up in insurgent violence, with some 40 US military personnel killed in the last 10 days, one of the deadliest tolls for the Americans since the March 2003 invasion.

Wednesday was one of the worst days for US forces as 18 troops were killed in various attacks across
Iraq, 14 of them in a single roadside bombing.

Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, aired a new threat warning the
United States and its allies of more death and destruction in a video broadcast on Al-Jazeera television.

"The Americans... will see horror that would make them forget the horror they saw in
Vietnam," Zawahiri said.

US President George W. Bush said Al-Qaeda wanted to drive the
United States and its allies out but he vowed to "stay the course."

"We will complete the job in
Iraq," he said. "And the job is this: We will help the Iraqis develop a democracy."

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari on Thursday unveiled a new security plan to take on the insurgents, after 21 Iraqis were killed that day.

Jaafari’s 12-point plan included strengthening intelligence coordination and more efforts to secure
Iraq’s borders to stop infiltration.

"We are at war ... the worst kind of war," Jaafari said.

Created by keza
Last modified 2005-08-25 09:31 AM

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