Sunnis boycott constitutional commission amid unceasing violence

The standoff between Sunnis and Shiite-led Iraqi government continues as Sunni members boycott the committee drafting Iraq's new constitution. At the same time, violence in Iraq remains unceasing, at least 15 killed in insurgent attacks.

Kamal Hamdoun, one of the 12 remaining Sunnis appointed to the commission last month, said the Sunnis would continue their boycott pending an international investigation into the assassinations of two colleagues Tuesday and until other demands are met, says the AP.

Meanwhile, the head of the drafting team, Sheikh Humam al-Hammoudi, in an effort to calm fears that insurgent pressure on Sunni Arab participants might derail the process said, that Iraq's constitution will be ready before the mid-August deadline, reports Reuters.

Even if the Shiite and Kurdish committee members decided to try and meet the August deadline without Sunni participation, questions would be raised over the legitimacy of a charter and whether it would win Sunni approval in an October referendum, believes the AP.

"Our decision is to go on with suspending our participation until our conditions are met," Hamdoun told The Associated Press.

Conditions include an international investigation into Tuesday's killing and a greater role for Sunnis in drafting the constitution. He also demanded that the chairman of the committee, Shiite cleric Humam Hammoudi, withdraw a statement made Wednesday that the final draft would be finished by the end of the month.

Elsewhere, two suicide car bombings and a string of other attacks in and around Baghdad Thursday left 15 people dead, police and army officials said.

A suicide car bomber rammed into an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing six soldiers in Mahmoudiyah, about 20 miles south of the capital. Thirteen others were injured, army Lt. Odai al-Zeiadi said.

A second Iraqi army checkpoint in the southern Baghdad suburb of Bueitha was also hit by a suicide car bomber, killing one soldier, al-Zeiadi said. Six other soldiers were injured, he said.

The United States has been pressing for Iraq's parliament to approve the new constitution by Aug. 15 so it can be submitted to a national referendum two months later. If the charter is approved, then a new election for a fully constitutional government will be held in mid-December.

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