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Iraqi Governing Council to Sign Interim Constitution - 2004-03-05

Iraq's Governing Council is expected to sign an interim constitution later in the day, which sets out the principles for governing Iraq when the U.S. coalition hands over control at the end of June.

Deadly suicide attacks against Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad and Karbala delayed the signing ceremony earlier in the week.

U.S. and Iraqi officials blamed suspected Al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for the attacks and said he was trying to foment civil war and disrupt plans for democratic reform. The U.S. coalition has launched a massive manhunt.

But governing council members said they were determined that terrorist violence would not deter their efforts to meet the timetable for the transition to Iraqi sovereignty.

The document that emerged from weeks of marathon debates incorporates federalist principles and includes Islam as one but not the only source for legislation. It also includes a bill of rights that guarantees religious and civil rights for all Iraqis.

The provisional assembly that takes control at the end of June will then have to draft a more permanent constitution and electoral law. General elections for a more permanent government are due at the end of the year.