Shiites demand constitution not changed

Iraq's Shiite-dominated government has ruled out any major change to a draft constitution that parliament looks set to pass this week. But Sunni leaders quickly indicated they would try to mobilize support for a "No" vote in the October referendum on the charter.

Iraq's parliament received a draft of the country's constitution minutes before a midnight deadline on Monday.

It came one week after the original August the 15th deadline. But the assembly put off a vote on the draft for three days in order to resolve some contentious issues.

However, drafting committee officials acknowledged that three days would probably be too short to win over Sunnis, who objected to wording on federalism, the description of Iraq as an Islamic - but not Arab - country, and other parts of the document.

Sunni leaders condemned the draft, threatening not to approve it, if it doesn't reflect their demands.

The US ambassador said on Tuesday that every effort must be made to win Sunni agreement, but the chairman of the drafting committee doubted that differences could be resolved quickly and suggested parliament might submit the current draft to voters, AP informs.

As informed earlier, the draft constitution must be approved by a simple majority of the 275-member National Assembly before being put to a referendum by October the 15th.

Shi'ites and Kurds said they might offer minor concessions, but were ready to use their parliamentary muscle to push the draft through.

But any approval risks a backlash among the Sunnis. In the end, that may doom the constitution.

If any three of Iraq's 18 provinces reject the draft by two-thirds when it is goes to the referendum, the constitution will be vetoed.

For now, the Sunnis are a clear majority in at least three provinces in the heartland of the insurgency.

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