Iraq to finish long-awaited constitution

The Iraqis said they were hoping to finish the constitution by the end of the day on Monday, a deadline that they have already extended once. They scheduled a meeting of the National Assembly for Monday evening, when they hoped to present a finished constitution for approval.

Negotiators said they had agreed on a formula to share Iraq's oil wealth, which had been one of the most difficult issues. The agreement was being shepherded with the help of American officials, and especially the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. After more than 12 hours of talks on Sunday, an American official said a deal was almost in hand, according to New York Times.

"It looks like all the major issues are resolved, and we hope tomorrow we will work out the remaining details," the American official, who, because of the diplomatic delicacy, spoke on condition of anonymity.

A Shiite-Kurdish power play would represent a major setback for the U.S., which has lobbied for the inclusion of Sunnis and the drafting of a constitution acceptable to them. Along with developing capable Iraqi security forces, coaxing Sunni Arabs into the political process is the primary U.S. strategy for blunting the Sunni-fueled insurgency, Los Angeles Times says.

A strong Sunni Arab push to defeat the constitution is certain to further strain Iraq's frayed ethnic fabric.

Hussein Shukir Faluji, a Sunni Arab consultant on the panel charged with drafting the constitution, warned that if Shiite and Kurd legislators tried to override Sunni concerns, "we will start a revolution."

On photo: Senior official Hachim al-Hasani. Photo by CNN.

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