US ‘concession’ marks turn in Iraq constitution
BAGHDAD: US concessions to Islamists on the role of religion in Iraqi law marked a turn in talks on a constitution, negotiators said on Saturday, as they raced to meet a 48-hour deadline under intense US pressure to clinch a deal.
US diplomats, who have insisted the constitution must enshrine ideals of equal rights and democracy, declined comment. Shia, Sunni and Kurdish negotiators all said there was accord on a bigger role for Islamic law than Iraq had before. But a secular Kurdish politician said Kurds opposed making Islam not ‘a’ but ‘the’ main source of law - a reversal of interim legal arrangements – and subjecting all legislation to a religious test.
“We understand the Americans have sided with the Shias,” he said. “It’s shocking. It doesn’t fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state. I can’t believe that’s what the Americans really want or what the American people want.”
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has been shepherding intensive meetings since parliament averted its own dissolution on Monday by giving constitution drafters another week to resolve crucial differences over regional autonomy and division of oil revenues.
Failing to finish by midnight on August 22 could provoke new elections and, effectively, a return to the drawing board for the entire constitutional process. But a further extension may be more likely, as Washington insists the charter is key to its strategy to undermine the Sunni revolt and leave a new Iraqi government largely to fend for itself after US troops go home.
Meanwhile, Ashraf Qazi, special Iraq representative of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, said he “deeply regrets” the decision of an Iraqi government “in the process of transition” to reinstate the death penalty.
On the other side, four Iraqi soldiers were killed and three wounded when an insurgent hurled a hand-grenade at an army patrol in Fallujah, a police officer said. An Iraqi police patrol killed three gunmen as they repelled an insurgent attack in Mosul, police said. agencies