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Iraq Transition

Progress on constitution; attack kills 30

Suicide bomber kills dozens in Tal Afar

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Men prepare ballot boxes in Baghdad on Wednesday three days before a constitution referendum.

IRAQI ISLAMIC PARTY DEAL

  • December 15: General elections

  • By April 15, 2006: National Assembly committee re-evaluates constitution

  • By June 15, 2006: Deadline to write new constitution

  • Followed by: New referendum on constitution
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    • Interactive: Sectarian divide

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    Iraq

    BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- As an insurgent attack killed 30 Iraqis on Wednesday, a powerful Sunni Arab group and the nation's Kurdish-Shiite coalition reached an agreement that may aid passage of Iraq's first constitution, President Jalal Talabani said.

    The deal would make the proposed constitution -- to be voted on Saturday by the Iraqi people -- only temporary, said a spokesman for the Sunni group, the Iraqi Islamic Party.

    Iraq's constitutional referendum is the critical next step in a U.S.-fostered plan aimed at developing an Iraqi democracy, which would be one of few such self-governing nations in the region. (Watch U.S. troops risk their lives on 'most dangerous Iraqi road' -- 2:31)

    The Iraqi Islamic Party spokesman said the agreement will next go to Iraq's National Assembly for consideration.

    It's unknown what overall effect the agreement may have on Iraqi Sunnis, who have been urged for weeks to reject the proposed constitution, which Iraq's constitutional committee approved in August. (Full story)

    The deal is an effort to avoid rejection of the constitution during Saturday's referendum. If two-thirds of voters in three of Iraq's 18 provinces reject it, a new government must be formed and the constitution process would have to begin all over again.

    Wednesday's agreement, the Iraqi Islamic Party spokesman said, would make the constitution temporary -- if voters approve it.

    Then, following general elections on December 15, a committee of Iraqi National Assembly members would re-evaluate the approved constitution.

    Within two months after that, a new constitution would have to be written, and by the end of that period -- roughly six months after the general elections -- a new referendum would take place.

    The Iraqi Islamic Party, however, is the only Sunni party to back this agreement. Notably missing is the approval of the Association of Muslim Scholars and the Iraqi National Dialogue Council.

    Much of the nation's minority Sunni population, which dominated under Saddam Hussein's rule, boycotted January's vote for a transitional National Assembly. U.S. officials have said they believe Iraq's insurgents are planning to increase attacks as the referendum approaches.

    Time a factor

    It's unclear whether the deal, made with only three days before Saturday's vote, has occurred too late to have an impact. Sunnis have been told for weeks to reject the constitution. The deal may lead to dissension among Sunnis.

    A spokesman for the Iraqi General Conference, a coalition of Sunni groups, said they have not wavered from their position urging Sunnis to reject the constitution. Sheikh Imad al-Deen said the parties might agree if this weekend's vote were canceled and the current constitution declared valid for one year only.

    The Association of Muslim Scholars, meanwhile, said it was still asking Sunnis not to participate in the political process.

    De-Baathification an issue

    Earlier, sources involved in the talks told CNN the deal would involve changing the constitution to remove the de-Baathification process -- the effort to rid Iraq of vestiges of Saddam's Baath party.

    In return, the Iraqi Islamic Party indicated it would withdraw its opposition to the document, the sources said.

    According to details of the deal, the sources said, the National Assembly would take up the de-Baathification issue after the referendum.

    Syria's leader: 'We should re-evaluate'

    In an exclusive interview with CNN on Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said, "We should re-evaluate what's going on in Iraq." (Watch rare interview with Syrian leader and his message for the people of the U.S. -- 1:51)

    Al-Assad told CNN's Christiane Amanpour the war in Iraq poses questions:

    "What did we achieve, what did they achieve from that war in Iraq? It's a very simple question," Al-Assad said. "What did they achieve economically, politically, fighting terrorism? We didn't achieve anything. This is one example." (Full story)

    When Amanpour said the U.S.-led war toppled Saddam, Al-Assad replied, "Yeah, but what did you lose [in] return? The hope of the people, the stability, no better democracy, no better economy, no services, no stability in the region, more terrorism -- so is that the prize you've won for getting rid of a dictator? That's not a goal."

    President Bush on Wednesday again accused Syria of failing to secure its border against terrorists crossing into neighboring Iraq.

    "We expect Syria to do everything in her power to shut down the transshipment of suiciders and killers into Iraq," Bush told reporters at the White House. "We expect Syria to be a good neighbor to Iraq."

    Al-Assad likened the situation on Syria's border with Iraq to accusations that the United States fails to control its border with Mexico. He said it's "impossible" to control the Syrian-Iraqi border and implied that neither Iraqi nor U.S. authorities were watching the Iraqi side.

    "We'd like to invite any delegation from the world or from the United States to come and see our borders, to see the steps that we took, and to look at the other side to see nothing," Al-Assad said. "There is nobody on the other side, American or Iraqi."

    Al-Assad said he was opposed to certain kinds of fighters in Iraq.

    "We should differentiate between insurgency and the Iraqis who fight against the American and British troops," he said. "This is something different. I'm talking about the people who killed the Iraqis, those who will call them terrorists. We are against them completely."

    He said Syria has asked Washington for technical support to better monitor the border but has recently ended its security cooperation with the United States because of repeated verbal attacks from the Bush administration.

    Dozens killed near Sunni city

    A suicide bomber killed 30 people and wounded 40 others on Wednesday outside an army-police recruitment center near the predominantly Sunni city of Tal Afar, said Dr. Salih Qadu, director of the city's hospital. Earlier, a U.S. military source said 24 were killed and 30 wounded in the attack. (Full story)

    The blast came a day after a suicide bomber drove a car painted to look like a taxi into a crowded vegetable market in Tal Afar.

    At least 30 people were killed and another 45 wounded in that attack, according to Khasro Goran, deputy governor of Nineveh province.

    CNN's Aneesh Raman, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Arwa Damon, Enes Dulami and Cal Perry contributed to this report.

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