Skip to comments.Iraq council approves interim constitution
Posted on 03/08/2004 3:05:56 AM PST by William McKinley
Iraq's United States-appointed Governing Council have gathered to sign an interim constitution crucial to US plans to hand sovereignty back to Iraqis, after Shiite Muslim politicians withdrew their objections.
Sources close to the council's deliberations say it has passed a resolution to sign the constitution.
The signing of the constitution has been delayed twice.
The first delay was caused by bomb attacks on Shiites last Tuesday, which killed at least 181 people.
Then last-minute doubts among Shiites forced the abandonment of a high-profile ceremony on Friday.
Representatives of the five groups that backed out on Friday spent the weekend in the holy city of Najaf talking with top clerics, including Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who wields immense influence over Iraq's Shiite majority.
They announced yesterday that Ayatollah Sistani still has deep reservations about the document but has given them the go ahead to sign it, in the interests of advancing political transition.
Others present say the cleric would have liked to push for changes, but felt the furthest he could go was to make his objections clear and leave it up to the politicians to do what they felt necessary.
Under the US timetable, an Iraqi Government is to take over sovereignty on June 30 and elections for a transitional assembly are to be held by the end of January next year.
The main point of dispute had been a clause in the constitution that may allow Iraq's Kurdish minority to veto a planned permanent constitution if it does not enshrine their right to autonomy in three northern provinces.
The Kurds, who have ruled three provinces of northern Iraq since wresting them from Saddam Hussein's control after the 1991 Gulf war, had said that if the clause was not included they would not sign.
That must a be pretty good Constitution. Let's hope their future generations respect and heed it more than our Leftists do today.
Even Nation Palestinian Radio NPR reported it on the radio this am in a positive light. (there just wasnt anything else to listen to)
Im surprised that it was signed today actually. Excellent.
I'm sure its an unintentional oversight which will be corrected immediately when its discovered.
Why is it that one religion is right and all the rest are wrong?
Today: March 08, 2004 at 6:35:39 PST
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -
Iraq's Governing Council signed a landmark interim constitution Monday after resolving a political impasse sparked by objections from the country's most powerful cleric. The signing was a key step in U.S. plans to hand over power to the Iraqis by July 1.
Before an audience of prominent Iraqi and American civilian and military officials, including the top administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, the 25 council members signed the document on an antique desk once owned by King Faisal I, Iraq's first monarch.
Council president Mohammed Bahr al-Ulloum called the signing a "historic moment, decisive in the history of Iraq."
"There is no doubt that this document will strengthen Iraqi unity in a way never seen before," said Massoud Barzani, a Kurdish leader on the council. "This is the first time that we Kurds feel that we are citizens of Iraq."
But there were signs that a dispute that delayed plans to sign the constitution on Friday might surface again. Council member Ibrahim al-Jaafari read a statement signed by 12 of the 13 Shiite council members that said they agreed to sign the interim constitution without demanding changes in order to safeguard national unity. Last week, bombers carried out deadly attacks on Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad and Karbala.
Several Shiite council members said a clause that was in dispute, which would give Kurds more power, will be subject to further negotiations. They said the clause might be amended in an addendum to the interim constitution that is expected to be issued next month to decide the shape and functions of an interim government that will take over from the U.S.-led coalition on June 30.
The signing came nine days after a deadline set in a U.S. timetable. The delay was caused by a mourning period following bomb attacks on Shiite shrines, as well as political wrangling on the U.S.-picked council. The impasse strained relations between Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders and highlighted the power of Iraq's Shiite clergy.
The charter - which includes a 13-article bill of rights, enshrines Islam as one of the bases of law and outlines the shape of a parliament and presidency as well as a federal structure for the country. It will remain in effect until a permanent constitution is approved by a national referendum planned for late 2005.
About an hour before the signing ceremony began, insurgents fired mortar shells at two police stations in central Baghdad, injuring four people, including one policeman, Iraqi officials said.
Iraqi and U.S. officials still must agree on a method to create the government that will take power on June 30 and serve until national elections due by Jan. 31 - a task that will likely need help from the United Nations.
Monday's ceremony was a sign of unity after a similar ceremony planned for Friday fell apart when five of the council's 13 Shiite members refused to sign the document because Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani objected to a key clause requested by the Kurds. The last-minute disruption embarrassed U.S. coalition officials and angered others on the council who saw as it as a Shiite attempt to grab more power.
After urgent talks over the weekend, al-Sistani signaled to the five Shiite dissenters that he would not oppose the constitution despite his reservations, and the document was signed Monday without changes.
"We must put the interests of our nation above all of our interests. The world is waiting and expecting us to work in the service of our nation," Bahr al-Ulloum told council members in a meeting Monday before the signing. The members then unanimously approved the document with a show of hands.
Bremer will endorse the document in a separate letter congratulating the council members, who include 13 Shiites, five Kurds, five Sunni Arabs, a Christian and an ethnic Turk.
Al-Sistani's opposition focused on a clause in the draft that gave Iraq's Kurdish minority the power to veto a permanent constitution even if the Shiite majority approved it in the referendum.
The disputed clause in the draft said that the referendum on the permanent constitution would fail if two thirds of the population in any three provinces reject it - even if it gains a majority nationwide. The Kurds, who control Iraq's three northern provinces, wanted the clause to ensure that no charter could be passed that encroaches on their self-rule region in the north.
Al-Sistani, however, said the clause gave a minority an unfair veto over the majority's will, Shiite officials said.
The intervention by the powerful 75-year-old cleric angered Sunnis and Kurds, who refused to change the draft. Throughout negotiations on the charter in past weeks, some council members have complained that Shiites on the council repeatedly went back on agreements because of al-Sistani's opinions.
"To say that the Shiite religious leadership is now meddling in politics is to understate the case," said senior politician Naseer Kamel al-Chaderchi, a Sunni Arab council member. "The majority must not be allowed to usurp the rights of others."
The Shiites' decision Sunday to go ahead with signing the charter as is - even though al-Sistani still had reservations - appeared to be a recognition of the bitterness the dispute was raising among other members.
A pretty mild response from the terrorists!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.