Skip to main content
Iraq Transition

Committee signs Iraq's draft constitution



• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's constitutional committee approved a final draft of the Iraqi constitution and put it before the National Assembly on Sunday, despite the rejection of Sunni Arab leaders.

At a press conference, Sunni Arab negotiators called the document "illegal," and called on the United Nations and the Arab League to intervene and prevent its passage.

One Sunni negotiator accused the other political parties -- Shiites and Kurds -- of violating an agreement to work together.

Saleh al-Mutlag, head of the Sunni negotiators, complained: "The situation is not balanced. We came here on the basis that there is compromise but it doesn't exist."

The constitutional committee had made some minor amendments in hopes of appeasing Sunnis on two central issues of disagreement: The existence of autonomous regions and de-Baathification, the question of how to deal with members of ousted leader Saddam Hussein's government and his Baath Party.

Shiite and Kurdish negotiators said they were unable to win over the Sunnis.

Without taking a vote, the presidential committee signed the draft constitution and read it to the National Assembly.

It will go to the Iraqi people, who will vote by October 15.

Speaking on the U.S.-funded Iraqi government TV network al-Iraqiya, President Jalal Talabani called on Iraqis to support the draft. "We hope that this constitution will be accepted by all Iraqis and it will be for everybody. We are optimistic," he said.

He added that the constitution could later be amended. "For sure there is no book that is perfect and cannot be amended, except the holy Koran," he said.

The developments appeared to bring an end to the exhaustive constitution-drafting process that was extended repeatedly as Iraqi negotiators were unable to reach an agreement.

Iraqi government spokesman Leith Kubba said some Sunnis did agree to the draft constitution. "Everybody knows you can't please all players ... At the end of the day, this is the best the government can come up with, and we hope this vote will close the debate," he said.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, negotiators from the largely Shiite Arab United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdish Alliance --- the blocs that control the power in the transitional national assembly -- offered compromise proposals on federalism, under which Kurds, Shiites, and Sunni Arabs would have separate autonomous areas, and de-Baathification.

The Shiite and Kurdish officials wanted the Sunni Arabs to agree to the changes by Sunday, but they refused.

The goal of Iraqi leaders and their allies is to create a constitution that will be widely backed by all sectors of society.

It remains unclear how Iraqis will respond to the document, even with the Kurdish and Shiite leaders supporting it.

"The purpose of the constitution to me is to bring settlement into Iraq, stability into Iraq. Iraqis need to come together to build a new nation," said assembly speaker Hachim al-Hasani.

Throughout the negotiations, President Bush and other U.S. diplomats, as well as British and U.N. officials, pushed lawmakers to resolve their disputes. The White House argues that developing a constitution would help solidify Iraq's democracy and serve to be a tool in the fight against the insurgency.

Lawmakers originally were to submit a draft to the transitional national assembly on August 15 in a process spelled out under the transitional administrative law.

That was delayed until Monday, when lawmakers submitted a completed draft constitution to the transitional national assembly. The battles over federalism and de-Baathification

Currently, Kurds have an autonomous region in the north and continue to back such a de-centralized government. Shiite Arabs have voiced support for an autonomous region in the south, a concept opposed by Sunni Arabs. Under the draft constitution, Kurds would be allowed to keep that autonomous region, Kubba said.

But the draft sidelines details on federalism until six months after a new assembly convenes in December -- a move aimed at appeasing Sunni concerns, Kubba said.

The draft also sidelines the issue of de-Baathification.

Essentially, it transfers those two hot-button issues to a future government.

If the constitution does not win national support, the Iraqi government may have to dissolve, and there could be elections for a new transitional national assembly.

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

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.

© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines