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Iraqi President Predicts Constitution Will be Approved

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani says he expects the country's draft constitution to be approved by voters and he says there will be no civil war even if the document is rejected. Mr. Talabani made his remarks during a news conference at Voice of America headquarters in Washington.

President Talabani told reporters that despite concerns expressed by some Sunni Arabs, he believes the constitution will be ratified in a nationwide referendum scheduled to take place next month.

He says if the constitution is not approved, elections will be held for a new National Assembly, which would draft another document.

"There will be no civil war in Iraq. Iraqi society is united, but because we have a democratic climate, we have full kind of democracies, and all kind of democracies, there are dialogs, there are discussions, there are sometimes different ideas, views, but in the end you [will] see Iraqi society united," he explained.

President Talabani repeated his support for federalism, and rejected criticism by Sunnis who say the concept could lead to a divided Iraq.

"Those people who are against federation, they are mainly the remnant of Saddam Hussein. They are narrow-minded Arab nationalists who do not understand the spirit of the new era and who are always thinking for a very strong centralized, totalitarian Baghdad, which they dream to come back to rule. It is impossible," he added.

Mr. Talabani lashed out at the Arab media, charging that they are supporting terrorism by the way they report on the insurgency.

"They are describing the terrorists who are killing children, women, innocent people, as [a] resistance movement, as heroes of the struggle against imperialism and Zionism, while denying what Iraqi Army and security forces are doing for preventing these criminals from committing these crimes," he added.

President Talabani says he believes that within the next year sufficient Iraqi police and security forces will be trained so troops in the U.S.-led coalition can begin to withdraw.

Next week the Iraqi president is scheduled to meet with President Bush in Washington and speak at the United Nations in New York.