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Iraqi Governing Council Begins Drafting Constitution - 2003-11-24

Iraq's Governing Council has begun the process of drafting a basic law, which will serve as an interim constitution until elections can be held in two years.

Iraq's 24-member Governing Council says it is holding meetings with the top U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer, to discuss details of the basic law that would go into effect in February and govern the formation and functioning of a new transitional government.

While the Governing Council is responsible for drafting the law, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority is expected to closely supervise the process.

Council members have already established a number of major legal guidelines. They include guarantees of freedom of speech and respect for human rights, and equality of Iraq's diverse religious and ethnic groups.

The Governing Council announced eight days ago that it would draft a basic law, after it approved Washington's plan to hand power to a transitional Iraqi government by next June. Under the plan, the interim governing body is to draft a permanent constitution and hold elections by the end of 2005.

A spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, Dan Senor, says Governing Council members are eager to attract wide support for Iraq's new political plan from the country's Sunni Muslim minority.

Sunni Muslims have politically dominated Iraq for centuries. But they have recently had to cede much of their political clout to the country's long-repressed Shiite Muslim majority. Mr. Senor acknowledges that most Sunnis remain highly skeptical about getting their fair share in a new government.

"The Governing Council, in the weeks ahead, as they work to establish a basic law and an interim government will be reaching out more and more to Sunni Muslims to demonstrate that every Iraqi who is not a former regime loyalist and is not part of the destruction, is not part of the torture chambers and wasn't a part of the rape rooms and chemical attacks and mass graves, every single Iraqi who believes in a new free, democratic Iraq has a stake in this new system," he said.

Meanwhile, Sunni Muslims across Iraq began celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Monday. Thousands flocked to Baghdad's Abu Hanifa Mosque, one of Sunni Islam's holiest shrines, to pray and participate in the Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of a month of religious fasting.

Shiites in Iraq will mark the end of Ramadan on Tuesday.

In spite of the holiday, violence continued in the northern city of Mosul Monday. A U.S. soldier was wounded when gunmen activated a roadside bomb and opened fire on a military convoy.

The ambush follows Sunday's deadly small arms attack on two U.S. soldiers driving through the city. There is still no official report about how the men died. But witnesses say gunmen opened fire on the soldier's car. Then, Iraqi teenagers swarmed over the wrecked vehicle, savagely beating the soldiers with concrete blocks.

Sunday's killings were the most brutal in a string of recent anti-coalition attacks against U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies in the Mosul area.