Sunnis to campaign against Iraq constitution


The head of the Iraqi Constitutional Committee Humam Hamoudi (C) and members of Iraq's constitution drafting committee pose for a photo at the convention centre in Baghdad today

Iraq's parliament has been presented with the final draft of the country's constitution that was signed this morning after weeks of discussions and missed deadlines.

We have not agreed on this constitution. We have objections which are the same as we had from day one
Sunni negotiator Hussein al-Falluji

But changes made to the document have not been enought to bring Sunni negotiators onside and the document's big test will be in a referendum on October 15th.

One Sunni delegate on the committee drafting the constitution said all his colleagues on the panel objected to the draft and would campaign against it in the referendum.

"We have not agreed on this constitution. We have objections which are the same as we had from day one," Hussein al-Falluji said.

"If there is no forging of the results, I believe the people will say 'No' to the American constitution," he said.

The chairman of the parliamentary drafting committee, Humam Hamoudi, introducing the reading out of the text, said he hoped "those who still have reservations" would back the document. It will be voted on by the parliament today.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was to announce the final draft at a news conference at 3.30pm (12.30pm Irish time), a senior Iraqi government source has said.

Members of Iraq's constitution drafting committee signed the document earlier after some amendments, Shia committee member Khaled al-Attiyah said. Five million copies will be circulated nationwide in food parcels that each Iraqi family receives monthly from the government.

The amendments were made in hopes of appeasing the Sunni Arab minority, but it was unclear whether the 15 Sunni negotiators signed the final document.

Government spokesman Laith Kubba said changes had been made in the draft to postpone federalism for six months after a new assembly is formed following December elections.

"These were the revisions. I'm not very sure all of them were taken on board exactly as demanded ... But the most important item was to postpone federalising the country (until) six months after the new assembly in December is formed."

Sunnis fear the creation of a federal state, hiving off Shia and Kurdish regions, could break up the country and deprive Sunnis of its oil resources.

Committee members appeared in the meeting hall for a group photo but made no statements. Before al-Attiyah's comments, Sunni negotiator Sadoun Zubaydi said: "This is the end as far as the marginalised groups are concerned" and "as far as the drafting process is concerned".

"We now have to see how to proceed from here," he said.

The ceremony marking completion of the drafting process was set for 2.30pm (11.30am Irish time).

Sunni Arabs are at the forefront of the insurgency and the Americans hoped the constitution would lure them away from the rebellion. The community, which lost influence with the fall of Saddam, largely shunned a January election, giving it little voice in the present interim parliament. But it is mobilising in strength for the October referendum and an election due in December.