Final Iraq draft constitution sent to UN

Iraqi leaders have completed a draft constitution after months of tortuous negotiations, but a Sunni Arab group has called for the charter to be voted down in a referendum next month.

    The drafting committee held last-minute discussions on Tuesday

    "The text was handed over to the UN and will be distributed to the people so that they can consider it" ahead of the 15 October referendum, deputy speaker of parliament Hussein Shahristani announced on Wednesday.

    He said some changes had been made to the wording of the version presented on 28 August.
    The changes concerned references in the charter to the national identity of Iraq, as well as articles connected with the management of water resources and the rights of the prime minister, who will have two rather than three deputies.


    Shia Member of Parliament Abboud Wahid al-Issawi said three modifications were debated to the charter, including the role of two deputy prime ministers.

    "The amended article will include words stating that Iraq is a founding and active member of the Arab League and respects its charter"

    Abboud Wahid al-Issawi,
    member of Parliament

    The first modification concerns Article 3, which stipulates that only the "Arab people" of Iraq are part of the Arab nation, excluding the country's Kurds who are largely autonomous in northern Iraq and speak their own language.

    "The amended article will include words stating that Iraq is a founding and active member of the Arab League and respects its charter," Issawi said.

    Another change involves Iraq's rich water resources, the control of which the previous draft had shared between the central and regional governments, Issawi said.
    The modified text states that water resources "must be divided equitably around Iraq", Shahristani said.


    The drafting committee held last-minute discussions on Tuesday to amend articles in an effort to bring the Sunni Arabs on board, with about two-thirds of its 71 members taking part. 

    "Iraqi people can be proud of the draft constitution"

    US President Bush

    But the Sunni Arabs, of whom 15 representatives were invited to take part in the drafting process, continued on Wednesday to oppose the charter on the grounds that its call for a federal Iraq would lead to a break-up of the country.
    The National Council for Dialogue, one of the Sunni groups, said it would call for a "no" vote in the referendum.
    The rules for the referendum specify that two-thirds of the voters in any three provinces can vote down the charter, and at least three provinces are predominantly Sunni Arab.
    US support

    The announcement of the final draft came one day after US President George Bush, who was to address the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, met his Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani in Washington.

    The draft constitution is "an historic milestone", Bush said.

    "Iraqi people can be proud of the draft constitution and when an election to ratify the constitution is held next month, they'll have a chance to vote their conscience at the polls."
    The UN is in charge of printing five million copies of the new constitution to distribute to Iraqi families around the country before the referendum.



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