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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: UN urges Iraqis to vote in upcoming referendum

DUBAI, 20 September 2005 (IRIN) - The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has urged Iraqis to participate in the 15 October referendum and called on the government to ensure conditions that would enable the people to vote in a peaceful and secure environment.

In a statement issued from Baghdad on Monday, the special representative of the UN Secretary-General in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, said the recent adoption of a draft text for the permanent constitution of Iraq by the Transitional National Assembly was an important step.

Urging the people of Iraq to exercise their democratic right of choice, Qazi called for a "referendum free from intimidation and violence" and reiterated the UN's commitment to assist the transitional process in Iraq in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Hussein al-Shahristani, deputy speaker of the Iraq National Assembly, said on Sunday the draft constitution had finally been sent for printing after weeks of disagreement between political leaders over sticking points which will now be decided upon in the referendum.

UNAMI is printing 5 million copies and will distribute them before the referendum date.

However, the Sunni Arab minority has rejected the document which was approved by the country’s dominant Shiite and Kurdish blocs. They are particularly opposed to clauses on federalism, women rights, references to Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated Ba’ath party and the description of Iraq as a Muslim, but not Arab state.

However, the human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has said an important provision contained in previous versions of the draft constitution has been removed. The provision (Article 44) emphasises Iraqis' right to enjoy guarantees and safeguards enshrined in international human rights treaties ratified by Iraq.

The government has said the referendum will take place under very tight security and believes it will be more secure than last January’s election because this time around the Sunni Arabs will be participating – if just to vote against the draft constitution.

The constitution was drafted by a committee of 71 members – 28 Shi'ites, 22 Kurds, 15 Sunnis, three Turkmen, two Christians and one Assyrian.

Themes: (IRIN) Governance

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