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Reactions to Iraqi Draft Constitution Mixed


Iraq's Sunni minority has rejected the country's draft constitution, finalized Sunday by Shi’ite and Kurdish leaders. But U.S. President George W. Bush is calling the approval of the draft document a hopeful development.

Disenchanted Sunni Arabs took to the streets by the thousands, demonstrating against Iraq's newly approved draft constitution, in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

Although Sunni negotiators rejected the constitution, U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday he is optimistic about Iraq's future, and downplayed the lack of endorsement from the minority Sunnis. "Not everybody agreed with it. But now the Iraqi people get to decide. They get to debate. They get to make the decision this fall as to whether or not that constitution will be the constitution that governs their society" he said.

The Sunnis main objection involves federalism. They oppose creating autonomous federal states in the Kurdish north and Shi’ite south, leaving Sunnis cut off from most of Iraq's oil resources.

Sunnis also oppose references to Saddam's Baath party, fearing they would be purged from government jobs.

President Bush focused on the areas of agreement. "Instead of using guns to decide the fate of the future, Iraqis from all aspects of their society came together and wrote a constitution. This constitution is one that honors women's rights and freedom of religion."

Winning Sunni support is considered a key to ending the violent insurgency, led by Sunni extremists.

President Bush has said the U.S. military won't leave Iraq until enough Iraqi security forces have been trained, and are capable of maintaining peace and stability. Some opposition lawmakers in the U.S. are challenging the President to prove that plan will work.

Democratic Party Senator Joe Biden says, "Lay out specific terms, Mr. President, as to how many Iraqis you have to train, when you are training them, when you expect them to be trained and when you expect to be able to draw down American forces, so that we can judge whether or not you have a plan, Mr. President."

Although Sunnis are in the minority, they have enough votes to defeat the constitution during an October 15th referendum.

If that happens, voters must elect a new parliament, and the process of drafting a new constitution will start over from the beginning.

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