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Iraqis Submit Charter, but Delay Vote

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In Pakistan, officials reported that 11 Pakistani workers had been freed nine days after they were kidnapped in Iraq while traveling by bus to Baghdad from Kuwait.

If no major changes are made, the draft constitution would officially enshrine a sweeping transformation of Iraq that began 2 1/2 years ago with the U.S.-led invasion and the overthrow of Hussein. The changes would have enormous ramifications for Iraq's 26 million people, its resources and relations with its neighbors, such as Turkey, who fear the Kurdish north's move toward near-independence will heighten revolts among their own Kurdish minorities.

The constitution as written would formalize and broaden the autonomy enjoyed by the Kurdish north since creation of a U.S.-protected "no-fly" zone following the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The charter's definition of Iraq as a federal union also would clear the way for a southern Shiite state made up of as many as half of Iraq's 18 provinces, negotiators said. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite religious party that is the country's strongest political bloc and that has strong ties to neighboring Iran, called for such a sub-state this month.

Sunnis fear they would be left with an impoverished, weakened state in the west and center.

Negotiators said Monday that the draft would put Iraq's existing oil production under control of the central government. But control of new oil production would go to the south and north, where the oil is produced, meaning revenue for the central government, and Sunnis, would likely ebb within a few years.

"We gave a choice -- whoever doesn't want federalism can opt not to practice it," said Ali Debagh, a Shiite constitutional committee member. He acknowledged that the Sunnis would be unlikely to accept such a draft in a national referendum scheduled for October.

The draft constitution submitted Monday stipulates that Iraq is an Islamic state and that no law can contradict the principles of Islam, negotiators confirmed.

Opponents have charged that the latter provision would subject Iraqis to rule by religious edicts of individual clerics or sects.

The opponents also said women would lose gains they made during Hussein's rule, when they were guaranteed equal rights under civil law in matters including marriage, divorce and inheritance. The draft constitution says individuals can choose to have family matters decided by either religious or civil law.

Supporters say a separate bill of rights would protect women, and provisions of the constitution say no law can contradict democracy or that bill of rights.

Khalilzad, speaking to CNN early Tuesday, called the proposed constitution a "very good" draft that guarantees equal rights for all. An American serving as adviser to the Kurds, Peter Galbraith, disagreed that the charter protected women's rights and condemned what he called the Bush administration's "hypocrisy" on that issue in the constitution.


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