The proposal came a day before Sunni, Shia and Kurdish political leaders were scheduled to meet to try to thrash out differences on such sensitive issues as Iraq's identity, the role of Islam, federalism and the distribution of wealth to meet the 15 August deadline for parliamentary approval.

The Sunnis said federalism could be implemented in the future when there is a parliament that represents all Iraqis, said member Kamal Hamdan, in reference to the National Assembly that only has 17 Sunni Arab members of the 275 legislators.

"The proposal rejects federalism at the present time because it is difficult to implement it when the country is occupied and the security situation is unstable," Hamdan said.

Most Kurds and some Shia are for federalism, but Sunnis have been against it from the beginning, fearing it will lead to dividing the country.

Rights

The Sunni proposal came two days after Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said "the Kurdish people have the right to secede".

Saturday's move by Sunni Arabs to keep the decision on federalism for the future parliament seems to be because they fear that the predominantly Kurdish and Shia parliament can approve it easily.
 

Massoud Barzani: Kurdish people
have the right to secede

Sunni Arabs, many of whom boycotted the 30 January general elections after calls by some of their leaders and threats by fighters, are expected to participate in bigger numbers on the 15 December elections.
 
Humam Hammoudi, chairman of the 71-member committee drafting the constitution, had called political leaders from the Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shia communities to meet to see whether they can forge compromises to finish the document by the 15 August deadline.

Hamdan said the Sunni proposal suggests decentralised administrations in each province that work closely with the central government in Baghdad.

He added that the northern Kurdish provinces of Irbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dahuk continue running their affairs as they have since 1991, when they established an autonomous region.