Iraq's president says the country's new constitution is ready to be voted on by the Iraqi people. The final draft was presented to parliament Sunday, but has been rejected by almost all of the Sunni Arab representatives on the committee that drafted it.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said the constitution is ready for the national referendum, scheduled for October 15. He says it will now be up to the Iraqi people to decide whether the document should become the legal foundation of the new Iraqi nation.
Earlier, the drafting committee presented the constitution to parliament as a whole, and the document was then read aloud from beginning to end. Lawmakers had originally expected to vote on the draft as a show of unity, but the vote was scrapped, after Sunni Arab delegates rejected the new constitution outright.
After weeks of agonizing negotiations, some of the drafters acknowledged that it has been impossible to please everyone. They indicated that many non-Sunni members of the constitutional committee itself are dissatisfied with some aspects of the document, as well. But the head of the committee, Humam Hamoudi, said, overall, it represents a compromise they can live with.
"The brothers in the committee drafting the constitution have signed it, with notations on their reservations about certain articles that they would like to see re-written in a way that better represents their points of view," he said. Mr. Hamoudi praised it as an Iraqi constitution, written by Iraqi hands.
But Sunni Arab negotiators quickly announced their rejection of the document, despite several last-minute changes designed to appease them. They specifically object to the idea of Iraq as a federal state. They also wanted the constitution to identify Iraq as an Arab state, which it does not do. And they object to the banning of Saddam Hussein's Baath party.
But the Sunni negotiators said their rejection of the draft constitution does not mean a withdrawal from the political process. They said they still intend to take part in elections later this year, including the October 15 referendum on the constitution itself.