Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Sunni's make democratic plans to bring down constitution

Saleh Mutlak, a member of the panel that drafted the constitution, said its members had gathered Monday to discuss having the National Assembly declared illegitimate, because the repeated extensions of the deadline for finishing the constitution violated transitional law.
Other prominent Sunnis added their voices to calls for a defeat of the constitution in October.
"We will educate the citizens - Sunni, Shiite, Arab and Kurd - to reject this constitution when the process of voting starts," said Adnan Muhammad Salman al-Dulaimi, the spokesman of the General Conference of Ahal al-Sunna, a Sunni alliance.
Mr. Dulaimi cited the two issues that have ignited the most anger: a provision that could lead to a division of Iraq into largely autonomous regions, and the document's failure to assert that Iraq is part of the Arab world. But he said defeating the document would be far from easy.
"We know it will be difficult for Iraqis to reach the voting centers in Sunni areas," where guerrilla violence has been worst, he said.

Although Shiites and Kurds are likely to vote overwhelmingly for the constitution, one wild card has been Moktada al-Sadr, a rebellious Shiite cleric who has a large following and led two uprisings against American forces last year.
Mr. Sadr has led demonstrations against the constitution's provision to create autonomous regions in Iraq, and it is not clear whether he will mobilize his followers in Baghdad's vast Shiite district, Sadr City, during the referendum.
Mr. Mutlak said Sunnis who oppose the document expected to meet with Mr. Sadr, though no date has been set.
But some Sunni leaders said they were not sure they could rely on Mr. Sadr, a notoriously mercurial figure who differs sharply with the Sunni panel members on other issues. Mr. Sadr has always been hostile to the Baath Party of Mr. Hussein, for instance, while many Sunnis angrily opposed provisions in the constitution banning remnants of the party.

Mr. Sadr may also be subject to pressure from senior Shiite religious figures who favor the constitution. On Monday evening, he met in Najaf for half an hour with a son of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most powerful cleric.

But for some Iraqis, the debate is as much about identity as politics. By threatening to divide the country and publicly denying that it is a part of the Arab world, some Sunnis say, the constitution is dissolving the thin cultural glue that holds Iraq together.
"This is our crisis: Iraqi national identity is diminishing more and more," Sheik Yawar said. "This constitution is not helping."
As the political debate dragged on, violence continued.

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