CNN.com - Iraq constitution deadline extended - Aug 15, 2005

National assembly allows extra week for further negotiations

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's National Assembly voted unanimously Monday to extend for a week the deadline to complete talks on the country's new constitution.

The committee drafting the document asked for an extension after it failed to reach a compromise by Monday's deadline after months of talks. The new deadline is August 22.

Without the extension, the government would have dissolved, requiring new elections in December and starting the process again, a prospect the United States has strongly opposed.

The assembly voted after more than five hours of delay and about a half-hour before the midnight deadline that would have led to the government's dissolution without such a move.

U.S. leaders were quick to praise the Iraqi efforts and express confidence in the outcome, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush making similar comments.

"We are witnessing democracy at work in Iraq," Rice told reporters, saying the Iraqis had made "substantial progress" on difficult issues. Bush issued a statement applauding the "heroic efforts" of the Iraqis as "a tribute to democracy."

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad blamed the need for an extension on three days lost to negotiators because of a recent sandstorm.

CNN.com - Iraq constitution deadline extended - Aug 15, 2005


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