Iraq Faces Deadlock On Charter

By Khalid Al-Saffar and Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 31, 2005

BAGHDAD, July 30 -- Factional leaders moved closer to a deadline for completing Iraq's new constitution Saturday without resolving their toughest dispute, and bombings across the country killed at least nine people, including two security contractors working for the British Consulate in southern Iraq.

A Sunni delegate to the constitutional committee urged members to delay making a decision on the contentious issue of whether Iraq should adopt a federal system until after parliamentary elections in December, while urging them to meet the Aug. 15 deadline for approving the rest of the document.

Kurds and some Shiite Arabs have called for a federal system that would formally create separate regions in the predominantly Kurdish north and possibly in the Shiite south. The minority Sunnis, who ruled Iraq for more than eight decades, until Saddam Hussein was deposed, said such a move would mean the breakup of the country.

Sunnis boycotted voting in January that seated the first elected post-Hussein government. But they are expected to take part in National Assembly elections in December and regain some of their political clout.

The Sunni delegate, Salih Mutlak, said, "The next assembly will be in a better position" after the December vote to make a decision on an issue as important as federalism.

It was unclear whether the Shiites and Kurds would consent to approving an incomplete constitution. Delegates must announce Monday whether they will make their deadline. A Shiite delegate, Ali Debagh, said leaders would meet Sunday to decide whether to acknowledge a stalemate.

The two security contractors were killed when a bomb exploded next to a British consulate convoy in Basra. A second bomb exploded five minutes later, as crowds gathered, badly wounding two Iraqi children, police told the Associated Press.

In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near the National Theater, killing seven people, including three policemen, police and witnesses told news agencies.


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