Iraq constitution almost done

The draft of Iraq's new constitution will be completed by the end of the month, members of the committee writing it said Friday. The charter must be approved by parliament and submitted to voters in a referendum.

The committee did not meet Friday _ the Muslim holy day _ but discussions will resume Saturday, the members said. The United States has urged the Iraqis to finish the draft on time _ a key step to enable Washington and its international partners to begin withdrawing troops next year.

Sunni Arab member Ayad al-Samarrai said the committee had agreed that Islam will be "the main source of legislation." He added that the draft says no law will be approved that contradicts "the rules of Islam," a requirement that could affect women's rights.

"We have finished writing 95 percent of the draft," said Wael Abdul-Latif, a Shiite member of the committee.

"God willing the draft will be sent to parliament on Aug. 1," said another Shiite member, Bahaa al-Araji. He added that on Saturday, members will discuss what powers will be delegated to the 18 provinces.

Abdul-Latif said the issue of whether to approve dual nationality caused some problems. He said the committee had agreed that Iraqis can hold more than one nationality but a dual citizen cannot become president or prime minister.

On federalism, an issue many Sunni Arabs fear will lead to the dismemberment of the country, the committee has decided that each provinces can become a region by itself, and regions can merge into larger regions, Abdul-Latif said.

That idea was floated by Sunni Arabs, who believed that if every province were a region unto itself, they are less likely to band together and secede because that would mean abandoning local powers.

The real fear among the Sunnis is that federalism might enable the Kurds, who have ruled their own three-province region since 1991, to declare themselves an independent country.

The wealth of the provinces will go to the central government and 10 percent of this wealth will be given to the province or region to be spent on infrastructure, he said.

Abdul-Latif said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met in Baghdad Wednesday with the head of the committee and his two deputies and urged them to exert all efforts to finish on time.

"He (Rumsfeld) supported the political process because it leads to improvement in the security situation," the AP quotes Abdul-Latif.

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