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Iraq's Parliament Puts Off Constitutional Vote

Iraq's National Assembly postponed a vote on a draft constitution Thursday, again missing a deadline for ratifying the document. No new date for a ratification has been announced, but negotiations appear to be at an end.

Iraqi politicians say they have reached the end of the road in negotiations and are pushing ahead with the draft constitution even without the broad consensus they have been working to achieve for the past three days.

A government spokesman says that some amendments have been made to the controversial document, submitted on August 22 - in particular to the disputed clause that would allow Shi'ite regions in southern Iraq to form federal blocs within the country. The spokesman said regions will still have the right to form alliances - but not for two years - to give the situation in Iraq, quote, "time to settle down."

Iraqi Sunni Muslim politicians who have long complained they were left out of the constitution-writing process continue to reject the document. They accuse the Shi'ite dominated government of making up the rules as it goes along and say this government is illegal and that parliament should be dissolved.

Now the Iraqi government says it is up to the Iraqi people to decide to accept or reject the draft constitution in a nationwide referendum scheduled for October 15.