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Iraqi Shi'ites Leaders say Islam Should Guide Constitution


In a statement, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Ishaq al-Fayad warns that Shi'ite clerics will not accept a constitution that separates church and state. The statement said Islamic values and traditions as outlined in the Koran must form the foundation of any Iraqi government.

Grand Ayatollah Fayad is one of five Najaf-based religious leaders, known collectively as the marjaiya. The marjaiya is led by the reclusive Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who cemented his stature as the most powerful man in Iraq after last Sunday's historic elections.

Election officials are still counting the ballots. But based on partial results, it is clear that, despite insurgent threats, an overwhelming number of Shi'ites followed Ayatollah Sistani's instructions to vote. And millions of those who went to the polls cast their ballots for the Sistani-endorsed coalition, known as the United Iraqi Alliance.

Shi'ite politicians within the alliance are now poised to take as many as 135 seats in the new 275-member transitional assembly, which is charged with appointing an interim government and drafting a constitution.

The five leading Shi'ite clerics have said that they have no intention of taking office themselves. But the marjaiya has also stated its intention to shape the constitution through Shi'ite politicians.

A member of Iraq's former royal family, Ali bin Hussein, led a secular slate of Sunni Arab and Shi'ite candidates in the elections, supporting the establishment of a British-style constitutional monarchy.

In an interview with VOA, Mr. Hussein expressed concern that Shi'ite religious leaders are becoming so confident of a large mandate for the United Iraqi Alliance, they are now in danger of alienating Iraqis who do not share the clerics' vision of an Islamic state. "We are passing the message that they should be cautious when dealing with the rest of Iraq. It is important that we ensure that all communities, whether they be Sunnis or secular Shi'ites, have a say in the writing of the constitution. It really has to reflect the balance of political power in Iraq with enough flexibility, so that the fears of different communities are allayed. The victory of the alliance causes great concern among other Iraqis, because it implies dictatorship of the majority and demagoguery, which makes everybody very nervous," he said.

Meanwhile, a group comprised of more than eight-thousand Iraqis who monitored last Sunday's elections says, overall, they believe the balloting was conducted freely and fairly in most areas of the country.

The group, Iraqi Election Information Network, made an exception for the turbulent northern city of Mosul, where tens-of-thousands of people, mainly Iraqi Christians and Turkmen, say they were unable to vote.

Electoral commission officials acknowledge that security concerns prevented many polling sites from opening in Mosul. Some of those that did open could not be supplied with ballots and other election materials.

The acting director of the monitoring group, Ali al-Dabbagh, said the observers have recommended that the Iraqi Electoral Commission give the people in Mosul, who could not vote, a second chance. "Because of the irregularities, and because people were deprived of their right of voting, we just request, is there a possibility for them to vote later on, to prepare an annex or something. We have forwarded the request, and we hope that they will answer our request and let those people vote. They're so keen about voting," he said.

Earlier this week, electoral commission officials said that there was little hope that elections could be held to rectify voting problems in Mosul and elsewhere, where complaints have emerged.