Iraqi council agrees to draft of temporary constitution

Charter would recognize Islam as `a source' of laws

women's rights advance

March 01, 2004|By Christine Spolar | Christine Spolar,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi Governing Council members working through the night approved a transitional constitution early today that provides equal rights for men and women, deems Islam a source for legislation and recognizes Kurdish regional authority in northern Iraq so long as it does not challenge national ambitions.

The 25-member council ended its marathon lawmaking session at 4:15 a.m. after nearly two days of nonstop discussion over Iraq's basic values. The interim constitution, due to be announced formally Wednesday after the Shiite holiday of Ashura, was passed by consensus, according to Feisal al-Istrabadi, a legal adviser to council member Adnan Pachachi.

There were few details, but it appears that some of the most problematic issues for the council - specifically the role of Islam - were solved by hours of careful parsing of words and sensitivities. The Kurdish issue was resolved in part by finding agreement on broad issues and leaving open some details about how disputes between federal and regional concerns would be resolved.

The agreement provides for a single president and two deputy presidents. There is no ethnic designation for any of the three positions.

"It was a matter of compromise," al-Istrabadi said.

He added: "I believe this to be the most liberal constitution in the Middle East. If it is truly enforced ... we will be on the road to building genuine democracy in this country."

The role of Islam was the most difficult issue to work through. By morning, the council had agreed Islam would be "the official religion of the state and is considered a source of legislation." Conservatives on the council had wanted Islam to be deemed the sole source of law.

Instead, the law enshrines the "Islamic identity of the majority of Iraqis" and "no legislation will be enacted which is contrary to the universally agreed tenets of Islam or the bill of rights or the principles of democracy," al-Istrabadi said.

Women's rights, also a touchy issue among conservative Muslims, were advanced. Women were guaranteed equal rights under the law and guaranteed a quota in the national assembly of 25 percent membership.

In other news, a bus headed toward the holy city of Karbala for Ashura came under gunfire yesterday from Polish soldiers. Eight Iranian pilgrims, an Iraqi civil defense trooper and a Pole were injured when the bus apparently had brake trouble and crashed into a checkpoint, witnesses and officials said.

Polish officials, who fired into the bus, denied there were any pilgrims in the bus and told the Associated Press that the soldiers appeared to have thwarted a terrorist attack.

Farther south, U.S. soldiers shot at a car that did not stop when a military convoy passed by. One Iraqi was killed and another was critically injured near Rumaythah, 135 miles south of Baghdad. Afterward, hundreds of Iraqis chanted "Down with America!" and pelted U.S. soldiers and Dutch marines with rocks.

In northwest Baghdad, a homemade bomb exploded, killing an Estonian soldier. He was the first Estonian soldier killed by hostile fire since the country gained independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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