Accessibility links

Breaking News

Sunnis Walk Out of Committee Writing Iraq's Constitution


Four Sunni members of the constitution drafting committee walked out Wednesday, protesting what they said was the government's failure to provide adequate security for Sunni members on the committee.

The four members belong to a Sunni umbrella group called the Iraqi National Dialogue. They were a part of a group of 15 Sunni Arabs who were added to the 55-member constitutional committee last month to expand Sunni participation in Iraq's political process.

Iraqi police secure area where Sunni Muslim National Dialogue Council member Mijbil Issa and two unidentified persons were gunned down in Karradah area of Baghdad
The brutal daytime murders of two Iraqi National Dialogue members on the committee and Wednesday's walkout raised concern that the loss of six Sunni members would delay the writing of the draft constitution.

Hours before the killings on Tuesday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had predicted that if the committee could work out Sunni Arab concerns on several issues, the draft constitution could be submitted by the end of the month.

By law, the draft should be presented to the Iraqi National Assembly by August 15. But the panel could request an extension of up to six months.

Sunni politician, Thamir al-Gadban, blamed the turmoil on militants, whom he says are determined to tear the country apart. But he says he believes most Iraqis, including Sunni Arabs, are still committed to a peaceful, political resolution.

"I think Iraq has passed through much more difficult times and we have faced greater challenges," said Mr. al-Gadban. "I'm sure the [political] process will continue and we will definitely have a new permanent constitution very soon."

At a press conference on Wednesday, the head of the drafting team, Sheikh Houmam al-Hammoudi, sought to reassure nervous Iraqis that work on the constitution was proceeding well.

Mr. Hammoudi said that he expected the various subcommittees to complete their sections of the document in the next two days. That initial draft would then be revised and submitted to the National Assembly.

"I can say that we can confine ourselves to the deadline of the first of August and I don't think we need any extension period," he said. "By the first week of next month, we are going to submit what we have already written to the National Assembly and by the 15th of August, we're going to publish this draft and we're going to distribute more than five million copies to the press so as to make the people aware of what is going on."

The draft constitution must be approved in a public referendum in October. If approved, a general election will be held in December to elect a new, permanent Iraqi government.

Meanwhile, Iraqis observed three minutes of silence on Wednesday to commemorate more than 120 people, including 32 children, killed in two separate suicide bombings last week. National Assembly members broke off their session at noon to bow their heads in silence. In a short speech following the observance, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari urged Iraqis to stand up to terrorism.