Shiites offer final compromise to break constitution impasse

Prodded by President Bush, Shiite negotiators Friday offered what they called their final compromise proposal to Sunnis Arabs to try to break the impasse over Iraq's new constitution, a Shiite official said.

Bush telephoned a key Shiite leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, on Thursday to urge consensus over the draft, Abbas al-Bayati told The Associated Press.

The Shiites were awaiting a response from the Sunnis, al-Bayati said. Later, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Kurdish mediator Barham Saleh were seen arriving at a Green Zone residence where top Shiites were huddling.

He said the concessions were on the pivotal issues of federalism and efforts to remove former members of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated Baath Party from public life, adding: "We cannot offer more than that."

There was no comment from Sunni negotiators. But in a sign of public opinion within the Sunni community, the country's Sunni vice president said the current draft was written only by Shiites and Kurds and is "far from the aspirations of all Iraqi people."

"We are trying to put forward the views of others," Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer, a former Iraqi president, told Al-Jazeera television Friday. "We want this constitution to maintain the unity of Iraqi soil and give rights to all Iraqis."

Al-Bayati said the Shiites had proposed that the parliament expected to be elected in December be given the right to issue a law on the mechanism of implementing federalism. He gave no further details, reports the AP.

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