The deadline for Iraqi constitution postponed for three days

Shiite and Kurdish politicians submitted a draft constitution Monday, meeting a deadline, but lawmakers decided to postpone the voting on the document for three days in a final bid to gain the support of skeptical Sunni Arab leaders.

After months of negotiations and a one-week extension, lawmakers had been expected to either approve a draft constitution by Monday, officially endorse another delay or scrap the whole process and start over with new elections. Instead, visibly tired politicians muddled through to a half-resolution, presenting a document that left several key issues unsettled.

People who have viewed the document said it includes vague language weakening Iraq's strong central government, enshrining a federalist system, and addressing how oil revenue is to be split between Baghdad and the provinces.

The text calls for such liberties as freedom of expression and the press. It gives Islam a role in national affairs, while offering Iraqis the option of following civil code in areas such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, Los Angeles Times reports.

But the drafting committee left it up to the transitional National Assembly to sort out issues including specifics on regional rights, the language of the preamble, the removal of Saddam Hussein's former Baath Party members from government, and the exact role of the presidency, officials said.

"We want a good, solid constitution," said Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister and a Kurd. "We don't want to force a deal on any group that they're uncomfortable with." already reported, that a strong Sunni Arab push to defeat the constitution is certain to further strain Iraq's frayed ethnic fabric.

Iraqi lawmakers claimed they had met their deadline simply by receiving a draft in the assembly Monday night. But that would be the case only through a loose interpretation of their requirements, according to Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The March 2004 transitional law said the National Assembly must "write the draft of the permanent constitution by no later than 15 August 2005." As there have been dozens of drafts revised by the constitutional committee, the provision has generally been taken to require a finished draft approved by the National Assembly in a formal vote.

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