Iraqi council ready to sign constitution

Shiite cleric, politicians drop objections to clauses in interim document

March 08, 2004|By Aamer Madhani | Aamer Madhani,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi Governing Council members signaled yesterday that they were ready to sign the interim constitution as early as today.

Those council members who balked at signing the transitional constitution last week said they would sign the document.

The planned signing was delayed at the last minute Friday after at least five Shiite members said they would not sign the constitution before consulting further with Shiite leaders. The holdouts were told by Ayatollah Ali al Husseini al-Sistani that the constitution gave too much power to the Kurdish and Sunni minorities.

Al-Sistani had objections to language in the constitution that would give the Kurdish and Sunni populations the ability to veto the permanent constitution. Al-Sistani is influential among Iraq's Shiites, who make up about 60 percent of the population.

At least three of the governing council holdouts met al-Sistani over the weekend in the Shiite holy city of Najaf to discuss his concerns.

"Al-Sistani has reservations, but it will not constitute an obstacle," said council member Mohammed Bahr al-Uloum, according to the Associated Press. "It will be signed as it was agreed upon before the governing council members."

Entifadh Qanbar, a spokesman for governing council member Ahmad Chalabi, who was one of the holdouts Friday, said the wording of the document would be unchanged. He added that Chalabi still believes the clause in question could be a problem. Still, Qanbar said he expects the document to be signed today.

"It needed to be addressed," he said. "It has been addressed, and that is the best that can be done at this time."

Speaking on yesterday's morning news programs, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq said he is optimistic that the constitution would be signed today but remained cautious.

"A number of people who had been out of town have not yet come back, and I'm sure they will want to talk among themselves and talk to other members of the governing council," said L. Paul Bremer III, speaking on Fox News Sunday. "We'll have to see how that goes tomorrow."

The adoption of an interim constitution is a key step in the U.S.-backed plan to hand power to the Iraqis on June 30, a date that the Bush administration is keen to keep during an election year in the United States.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Killed in Iraq

The latest deaths of American military personnel in Iraq:

A soldier attached to the 2nd Medical Brigade died yesterday of a noncombat-related medical condition.

Associated Press

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.