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New interim constitution for Iraq

Ahmed Chalabi signs the interim constitution Monday in Baghdad.

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Iraqis sign interim constitution

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Iraq constitution

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Calling it a new beginning for their country, Iraqi Governing Council members Monday signed an interim constitution, laying the groundwork for future elections, a permanent constitution and eventually a return to self-rule.

"Here we are today standing in a historical moment to lay the strong foundation for rebuilding a new Iraq," said governing council President Mohammed Bahrululum. "A new, free, democratic Iraq that protects the dignity of the human being and protects human rights."

But almost immediately there was criticism from one of Iraq's most influential religious leaders.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the key leaders of Iraq's Shiites, issued a statement on his Web site saying, "This (document) places obstacles to arriving at a permanent constitution for the country.

"Any law prepared for the transitional period will not have legitimacy until it is approved by the elected national assembly."

As governing council members gathered, an explosion was heard across Iraq's capital city, but was not heard at the conference center where the ceremony took place.

According to Iraqi police, a rocket hit a house near the Karada police patrol station in central Baghdad, wounding four people, including two children and a police officer.

The latest attack followed a barrage of at least seven small rockets that damaged a hotel Sunday evening in central Baghdad.

The newly approved 25-page interim constitution defines a new Iraq as being "federal, democratic and pluralist," according to an advance copy secured by CNN's Jane Arraf.

The ceremony was delayed by nearly a week because of deadly violence and disagreement among Shiite and Kurdish council members.

The missiles in Sunday's attack were fired toward the so-called Green Zone from the bed of a Toyota SUV parked about 400 yards (400 meters) north of the Al-Rashid Hotel, the official said.

A civilian security employee was slightly wounded but later returned to duty, the official said.

The Green Zone includes the Coalition Provisional Authority's headquarters in the presidential palace, which is across the street from the conference center where the signing ceremony was scheduled to take place.

Word of Sunday's attack came shortly after a spokesman for a member of the Iraqi Governing Council said Iraq's interim constitution would be signed without changes Monday.

"There were different opinions among us, but we were able to come to an understanding," said Sayed Mohammed Hussein Bahrululum, son of the council president. "We will continue with the signing of the interim constitution without making any changes in it".

On Friday, Shiite council members backed out of the ceremony after the nation's top Shiite cleric objected to a provision that would effectively give three Kurdish provinces veto power over approval of a permanent constitution.

"They reached a positive and clear understanding by the religious authorities for the development of the constitution and they plan to continue with the signing of the interim constitution on Monday," said Ali al-Shabout, spokesman for council member Muwafaq al-Rubaie.

The clause at issue says that if two-thirds of the voters in any three provinces reject the permanent constitution, which is to be drawn up in coming months, it would not go into effect until it is revised.

The three Kurdish provinces want more autonomy than the majority Shiites are likely to approve.

Shabout said the meetings were attended by clerics Mohammed Ishak Sayed, Mohammed Said Al-Hakim and al-Sistani.

In addition to Rubaie and Bahrululum, council members who attended the meetings were Ahmed Chalabi, Adel Abdul Mehdi, who is a spokesman for Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, and a spokesman for Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The signing ceremony was originally to take place Wednesday but was delayed for three days during a mourning period for victims of suicide bombings in Baghdad and Karbala.

The council gathered for a pomp-filled ceremony Friday afternoon to sign the historic transitional constitution, but the disagreements delayed the event and the council adjourned eight hours later.

The document will be the law of the land while efforts are made to adopt a permanent constitution and to directly elect Iraqi leaders -- a period coalition spokesman Dan Senor said would begin July 1, when sovereignty is set to be transferred to Iraq.

The interim constitution will not go into effect until given the go-ahead by Paul Bremer, the top civilian administrator in Iraq, who is expected to approve it.

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