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Iraq's Governing Council Hopes to Sign Constitution Monday - 2004-03-05


Iraq's Governing Council says it hopes to sign the country's interim constitution Monday, after Friday's ceremony was called off because of last minute objections from five Shi'ite members of the body.

The council issued a statement early Saturday saying it hopes to resolve the outstanding issues through dialogue. The Shi'ite politicians objected to two clauses in the document, one having to do with the make-up of Iraq's presidency and the other with veto rights against a permanent constitution.

In Washington, Bush administration officials described the disagreement and talks to resolve it as "democracy at work." They say the important thing is that the Governing Council members are discussing the issues.

The signing ceremony was already postponed from Wednesday, following multiple suicide bombings in Baghdad and Karbala Tuesday that killed more than 170 Shi'ite pilgrims.

The interim constitution was approved unanimously Monday after lengthy debate among the Governing Council.

The interim constitution declares that Islam is the official religion of Iraq, but not the sole basis for its laws. It also has a bill of rights guaranteeing religious liberty and civil rights for all Iraqis and sets out that there should be elections for a transitional assembly by the end of next January. That assembly will draft the permanent constitution.