Iraqi constitution met by Sunni resistance

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Abdel Aziz Hakim
file photo

Most points of disagreement on Iraq's new constitution have been ironed out, and the constitution should be ready before the Monday deadline, the President Jalal Talabani said in an announcement Saturday morning.

"The meetings are still going on and we have gone forward," Talabani told reporters. "There is a meeting today and another meeting tomorrow and God willing we will finish the job tomorrow."

The largest disagreement is over the governing the Kurdish and Shiite areas of central and southern Iraq, as well as the role of Islam in the state.

Constitutional committee members have said the remaining major stumbling blocks were federalism, a Kurds-style autonomy given sudden Shiite support by the call from its leading politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Sunni groups have called the move for federalism a deal breaker.

The controversy caused by the sudden Sunni call for federalism cast doubt on the chances for approval of the constitution draft by Monday's deadline. Sunnis fear that federal-autonomy zones will keep them from a share of the world's second largest known oil reserves. Those are concentrated in the Kurdish north and Shiite south.

But a Sunni participant Saleh al-Mutlaq said on Saturday, "An in principle agreement has been reached late yesterday that Iraq's oil revenues will be shared between the Shia, the Kurds and the Sunnis." The federal government would receive a percentage of oil revenues, and the rest would go to each governorate according to its population size."

Sunnis have still not agreed to any of the main points of the constitutional draft, but Kurdish National Assembly member Mahmud Othman said that Kurdish and Shiite groups could use their majority in the parliament to get the charter approved by Iraq's legislature.

The United States has played a strong role in the 71-member constitution committee writing the document described as the Transitional Administrative Law. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has acted as a broker between the Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab blocs.