Kurdish politicians negotiating a draft constitution criticized the U.S. ambassador to Iraq on Saturday for allegedly pushing them to accept too great a role for Islamic law in his drive to complete the charter on time.
Although a Sunni delegate made similar charges, U.S. officials declined to comment publicly while they worked with politicians as a Monday deadline loomed.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad spent Saturday shuttling among Iraqi political leaders, members of Iraq's constitutional committee said. Distribution of oil revenue dominated the talks, but no agreement was reached, delegates said. Shiite Arab, Kurdish and Sunni Muslim factions differ on how much revenue should be controlled by the government and how it should be divided.
The question of Islamic law drew strong public protests from Kurds.
The working draft of the constitution stipulates that no law can contradict Islamic principles. In talks with Shiite religious parties, Kurdish negotiators said they have pressed unsuccessfully to limit the definition of Islamic law to principles agreed upon by all groups. The Kurds said current language in the draft would subject Iraqis to extreme interpretations of Islamic law.
Kurds also contend that provisions in the draft would allow Islamic clerics to serve on the high court, which would interpret the constitution. That would potentially subject marriage, divorce, inheritance and other civil matters to religious law and could harm women's rights, according to the Kurdish negotiators and some women's groups.
Khalilzad supported those provisions and urged other groups to accept them, according to Kurds involved in the talks.
"Really, we are disappointed with that. It seems like the Americans want to have a constitution at any cost," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the constitutional committee. "These things are not good -- giving the constitution an Islamic face.
"It is not good to have a constitution that would limit the liberties of people, the human rights, the freedoms," Othman said.
Other delegates also complained about pressure from Khalilzad.
"His main interest is to push the constitution on time, no matter what the constitution has in it,'' said Salih Mutlak, a Sunni delegate who has been outspoken against some compromise proposals.
"No country in the world can draft their constitution in three months. They themselves took 10 years," Mutlak said, referring to the United States. "Why do they wish to impose a silly constitution on us?"
A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Saturday that Khalilzad remained immersed in the talks and could not be reached for comment. U.S. officials declined to comment.
Khalilzad, an energetic and engaged diplomat, has taken a direct role in the constitutional talks since taking his post late last month.
Many factions, including the Kurds, credit Khalilzad for skill at bringing the sides together and pushing compromises.
The constitutional debate led to demonstrations Saturday. More than 3,000 people rallied to support voter participation in Ramadi, a center for Sunni Arabs.
Demonstrators also denounced a proposed federal system sought by Kurds and some Shiites. A speaker, cleric Mushehin Ahmed, called the draft a "federalism of Iran," alleging it would build ties between the Shiite south and neighboring Shiite Iran.
In the northern oil city of Kirkuk, several hundred Arabs demonstrated against the charter, chanting, "Yes to unity! No to federalism!''
A roadside bomb killed an American soldier in Baghdad, the U.S. military said. Gunmen killed two policemen and two civilians in separate attacks in Baghdad, the Associated Press reported, quoting police.
Three Iraqi soldiers were killed in Fallujah in a grenade attack and one involving a roadside bomb, the AP reported, citing hospital sources.
Special correspondent Omar Fekeiki in Baghdad contributed to this report.