Sunnis Reject Draft of the Iraqi Constitution, Bush Blows Them Off
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi negotiators finished the country's new constitution Sunday without the endorsement of Sunni Arabs who helped prepare it, dealing a blow to the Bush administration and setting the stage for a bitter campaign leading up to an October referendum.
The 15 members of the Sunni panel said they rejected the document because of disagreements over such issues as federalism, Iraq's identity and references to Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated Baath Party.
Sunni Arab negotiators also said in a joint statement that they had asked the United Nations and Arab League to intervene.
The country's parliament speaker, Hajim al-Hassani, a Sunni Arab who was not on the negotiating panel, said he had "some reservations" about the draft — including "too much religion" and curbs on women's rights — and believed Shiites should have offered more concessions to the Sunnis.
Also, Sunni Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer did not attend a ceremony marking the end of the drafting process. Asked why al-Yawer was absent, President Jalal Talabani said "he's sick," eliciting laughter from officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, a Shiite.
"Some Sunnis have expressed reservations about various provisions of the constitution. That's their right," said Bush, who last week made a personal appeal to Iraqi Shi'ites to cut a deal with Sunni Arabs.
But Bush added, "There are strong beliefs among other Sunnis that this constitution is good for all Iraqis and that it adequately reflects compromises suitable to all groups."
With nearly 1,900 U.S. troops killed in Iraq and anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan camped out near his vacation ranch, Bush has seen his job approval ratings plummet to the lowest levels of his presidency.
The president hoped a smooth deal on the constitution would boost public confidence in his policies as well as help stem an insurgency that some fear is spiraling into a full-blown civil war.
Iraqi activist taken up by Bush recants her views
She was the Iraqi activist who became a symbol of the possibility of a brighter future for Iraq.
Back in February, with blue ink on her finger symbolising the recent Iraqi election in which she had just voted, Safia Taleb al-Souhail was invited to sit with the first lady, Laura Bush, and listen to the President claim in his state of the union address that success was being achieved in Iraq. Her picture went round the world after she turned to hug Janet Norwood, a Texas woman whose son had been killed in Iraq.
But now it appears Ms Souhail, an anti-Saddam activist who became Iraq's ambassador to Egypt, may be having second thoughts about the "success" she celebrated with a two-fingered victory sign....
"When we came back from exile, we thought we were going to improve rights and the position of women. But look what has happened: we have lost all the gains we made over the past 30 years. It's a big disappointment. Human rights should not be linked to Islamic sharia law at all. They should be listed separately in the constitution."
From the Iraq Constitution- Article (2): 1st Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation: (a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.
An officer stands next to the remains of a of a car bomb in the northern city of Mosul. Two people were killed and two others injured in a car bomb explosion. President Jalal Talabani said Iraq's draft constitution is ready to be put to an October 15 referendum despite the objections of Sunni Arabs which were downplayed by US President George W. Bush.(AFP/Mujahed Mohammed)