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Shi'a Awaiting Sunni Response To 'Final' Proposal

26 August 2005 -- Iraqi Shi'ite officials say they have offered Sunni Arabs a "final" compromise proposal on a draft Iraqi constitution and are awaiting the Sunni response.

AP quoted Shi'ite official Abbas al-Bayati as saying the committee is waiting for a Sunni response to concessions that have been offered on federalism and on the status of former members of the Ba'ath Party of Saddam Hussein and their possible roles in public life.

Sunni negotiators have not commented.

But thousands of Iraqis across the country -- including Shi'ite followers of Muqtada al-Sadr -- marched to demonstrate against U.S.-led forces remaining in Iraq and against the constitution.

Al-Bayatti said the Shi'a have proposed that the parliament to be elected in December be empowered to adopt measures for implementing federalism.

Earlier today, AP quoted Ali al-Adib, a Shi'ite member of the committee drafting the document, as saying that U.S. President George W. Bush had called on Shi'a to make concessions.

"The New York Times" reported today that Bush personally called Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Shi'ite group Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), to urge the concessions. U.S. officials have not confirmed the call.

Sunni Arabs gathered in two Iraqi towns today to protest Iraq's draft constitution. Early protests began in the town of Ba'quba, near Baghdad, and in the northern and largely Kurdish city of Kirkuk. Some protesters carried posters in support of former President Saddam Hussein and in support of his former ruling Ba'ath Party. The protesters demanded the omission of an article in the draft constitution that labels the Ba'ath Party a terrorist group.

They also demonstrated against the idea of a federal Iraq.

The commander of U.S. forces based in Tikrit, Major General Joseph Taluto, said today said that he expects insurgents increase attacks as an October referendum draws near.


Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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