Those Sunni's, such drama queens!!
Sunni party urges approval of constitution after late deal
BY LIZ SLY
BAGHDAD, Iraq - (KRT) - Iraqi leaders reached a potentially groundbreaking deal late Tuesday on an amendment to Iraq's constitution that may persuade members of the Sunni minority to reverse their opposition to the document and vote yes in Saturday's referendum.
The Islamic Party, Iraq's biggest Sunni party, said it had already instructed its followers to vote yes, in a dramatic switch in sentiment for the party that has led the most organized campaign against the draft constitution.
But Shiite leaders cautioned that the deal had not yet been finalized, and that stiff opposition remained within the ranks of the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite coalition that dominates the National Assembly, to any changes to the existing draft.
A special session of Iraq's National Assembly was called for Wednesday evening to present the proposed amendment, which would allow for the creation of a special committee drawn from the next National Assembly, to be elected in December, to review the existing draft and propose changes within four months.
"The speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Hachem Hassani, has announced that an agreement has been reached between all the political leaders," said his spokesman, Mohanned Abdul Jabbar. "Tomorrow at 7 p.m. he is going to tell all the National Assembly members what the deal is."
Shiite legislator Miriam Rais said that the proposed amendment would be put to a vote in the assembly and that many Shiites were opposed to it, suggesting that the deal may yet be scuttled by the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite coalition that commands a narrow majority in the assembly.
"You can't say everybody has agreed so far," Rais said. "I can tell you, there is not much support among the UIA for this suggestion."
Jawad Maliki, a senior Shiite negotiator, said that although the Shiite coalition had agreed in principle to the amendment, disputes remained about the mechanism for making changes to the constitution, with the Shiites insisting that a two-thirds majority should be required in the National Assembly.
It also wasn't clear whether the deal would win the support of the Kurds, who won virtually ironclad guarantees for their autonomy in the existing constitutional draft and have no wish to open the door to changes.
A spokesman for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who hosted the late-night negotiating session that produced the deal at his riverside home in Baghdad, said details of the deal would be finalized at another meeting Wednesday.
But Ayad al-Samarrai, a senior official with the Islamic Party who attended the session, said that the agreement was firm and that his party had already issued instructions to its followers to campaign for a yes vote.
"Everyone agreed. I witnessed it," he said. "We have already told (our followers) to vote yes."
Another Sunni leader, Mishan Jibouri, whose small party won a seat in the assembly, said he had dropped his opposition to the constitution as a result of the deal.
"I will be the first one tomorrow to tell people to go vote yes to this constitution," he said. "The majority of moderate Sunni leaders are going to encourage people to vote yes to this constitution."
If the deal survives Wednesday's wrangling, it could mark a dramatic turning point in the fortunes of Iraq's political process, signaling the beginning of an accommodation between the country's bitterly disillusioned Sunni minority and the Shiites and Kurds brought to power by last January's election.
It would also represent a major victory for U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has kept pressure on the feuding factions to reach a compromise, with only days left before the vote.
With Sunnis vowing to vote no to the constitution and Shiites and Kurds supporting it, there is a real danger that the referendum will serve to solidify the sectarian divide that has emerged over the past year and worsen the violence in which thousands of Sunnis and Shiites have been killed.
The Sunni boycott of the January election left the group with little influence in the National Assembly that drafted the document. But Sunnis are determined to participate in December's election, and the amendment will give them the opportunity to review those portions of the constitution that they don't like once they have secured representation in the legislature, al-Samarraie said.
It remains unclear, however, whether other Sunni groups will follow the Islamic Party's lead and change their stance. The hard-line National Dialogue Council, which claims influence with the insurgency, has already said it believes the proposed change does not go far enough toward addressing its demands that provisions defining Iraq as a federal state should be dropped.
The powerful Association of Muslim Scholars, a religious organization representing many Sunni clergy, also wields influence with many Sunnis and the group has not indicated whether it would support the deal.
"Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have."
"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"
Those Sunni's, such drama queens!!
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