Iraqi constitution to be printed in the UN office

Iraq's draft constitution has been finalized and will be sent to the United Nations to be printed, a leading Shiite lawmaker comments.

"Today we accomplished the final amendments of the new constitution and the final version has been presented to the United Nations to print it and to be distributed to the Iraqi people," said Hussein al-Shahristani, deputy speaker of the National Assembly.

Under an agreement with the government, the world body is supposed to print and oversee the distribution of the document ahead of the Oct. 15 referendum.

Al-Shahristani said several changes had been made in the version adopted by the drafting committee and sent to parliament on Aug. 28, after several deadlines were missed. The Sunni Arab minority rejected the document that was approved by the dominant Shiite and Kurdish blocs.

Iraqis will vote on the charter in the referendum, with the outcome still not assured because of fundamental opposition from the Sunni community.

The latest changes included an apparent bow to demands from the Arab League that the country be described as a founding member of the pan-Arab organization and that it was "committed to its charter."

Al-Shahristani, a senior Shiite politician, said other changes included a reference to water resources being managed by the central government and not by provincial authorities. Also, the latest version of the national charter provided for the prime minister to have two deputies in the Cabinet.

The Sunnis are unlikely to be appeased by the latest changes. They have vehemently opposed the draft constitution citing a number of points including federalism, references to Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated party and the description of Iraq as a Muslim but not Arab country.

Sunnis say that turning the traditionally centralized country into a loose federation would set the stage for its eventual disintegration, the AP reports.

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