Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-313848 Iraq / Constitution (L)
DATE:>
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/5/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE= IRAQ / CONSTITUTION (L)

NUMBER=2-313848

BYLINE= LAURIE KASSMAN

DATELINE=BAGHDAD

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: A last-minute disagreement has delayed the signing of Iraq's interim constitution. Five Shi'ite members of the Interim Governing Council raised objections shortly before the signing ceremony was due to start Friday afternoon. V-O-A Correspondent Laurie Kassman has the story from Baghdad.

TEXT: The Shi'ite council members object to two clauses of the interim constitution and refuse to sign the document until some revisions are made.

One of the clauses deals with the make-up of the provisional presidency that would assume power from the U-S coalition at the end of June. The document calls for a president and two vice presidents.

But the Shi'ite council members want a five-member presidency, with three of those seats reserved for Shi'ite Iraqis because they make up a majority of Iraq's population.

A spokesman for one of the members told V-O-A news they also object to a clause dealing with the referendum for a future permanent constitution. The clause says any three of Iraq's 18 provinces could veto the final constitution, even if a majority of Iraqis approve it.

Shi'ite members fear that would give too much power to the three Kurdish provinces in the north.

The 25-member Governing Council had approved the interim constitution by unanimous vote on Monday.

The signing was to take place on Wednesday but was delayed two days after suicide bombings in Karbala and Baghdad killed and wounded hundreds of Shiite Muslim pilgrims there.

The last-minute objections come after several Shi'ite council members consulted with Iraq's top Shi'ite religious authority Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who wields considerable influence over Iraq's Shi'ite population even though he holds no official political office.

It is not clear why the questions were not raised sooner, or when they might be resolved.

Council members went into an emergency session and consultations with the top U-S administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer. (Signed)

NEB/LMK/MAR/FC



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