The Shia bloc halted the signing of Iraq's interim constitution on Friday, because they refused to accept a clause that gave what they claimed to be unfair power to the Kurdish north.
 
US-appointed Iraqi leaders said the Shia wanted to remove the clause that would allow the voters of three governorates out of Iraq's 18 to block the execution of a permanent constitution, which is to be composed next year.

Shia Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) members are also holding out for an expansion of the Iraqi presidency, which, by most accounts, will likely turn out to be held by a Shia.

They want it to be comprised of five members, (not three as currently planned) made up of three Shia, a Sunni and a Kurd. Shia concern was also expressed about Kurdish becoming an official state language.

Stalemate

The stalemate arose after a meeting between IGC Shia members and the Iraq-based Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most powerful religious leader.

Shia IGC members walked out
from a constitution meeting 

A Shia politician said on Sunday a deal had been struck on Iraq's interim constitution after talks were held at the home of Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani, the religious leader who holds a tacit veto over the document.

"You will hear very good news, very soon, the signing will take place Monday," IGC Shia member Muwaffaq al Rubai told reporters two days after his religious bloc withdrew its endorsement and pulled out of a signing ceremony.

Basim Zayya, the Foreign Relations officer of Masud al-Barazani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told Aljazeera.net the Kurdish bloc in the IGC is waiting to see what Shia members bring to the table after their meeting with al-Sistani.

"They had asked for some days for negotiations; they have the right to do that," Zayya said. "We shall wait until tomorrow and see."

Angry reaction

However, Kurdish members have reacted angrily to Shia objections on the rights given to Kurds. The New York Times on Sunday quoted a Kurdish official as saying: "These five guys [Shia IGC members] showed that they are Iranians, not Iraqis, and that Sistani is an Iranian.

"They say they support all Iraqis, but they are forcing all of us to accept Shia domination."

The Arab Sunni IGC member Nasir al-Jadirji told Aljazeera.net the case is not simply Kurdish, it is in fact an Iraqi case, and every Iraqi should back it.

"To give any three governorates the right to veto the constitution is a guarantee to the rights of minorities," he said. "To be a majority does not mean that it can steer the destiny of the country."

Al-Jadirji confirmed that claims regarding the Shia bloc demanding a five-member presidential council are baseless, but that the council will be made up of three members as agreed.

"The presidential council will consist of three members. We are committed to what we agreed on," he said. "Nobody is allowed to change anything."