8/21/2005

Iraq's Sunnis Appeal to U.S. and U.N. to Block Constitution Draft - New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- One day before the deadline for Iraq's new constitution, Sunni Arab negotiators appealed Sunday to the United States and the international community to prevent Shiites and Kurds from pushing a draft charter through parliament without Sunni consent.

An Iraqi government spokesman suggested that if the factions cannot agree on a draft by Monday night, parliament may have to amend the interim constitution yet again to extend the deadline and prevent its dissolution.

In Jordan, two newspapers published a letter from Saddam Hussein in which he vowed to sacrifice himself for the cause of Palestine and Iraq, urged Arabs to follow his path and implied he would become a martyr for the Arab cause.

The letter was delivered through the International Committee of the Red Cross to an old friend of Saddam's now living in Jordan.

''My soul and my existence is to be sacrificed for our precious Palestine and our beloved, patient and suffering Iraq,'' the letter to an unidentified friend said.

''It is not much for a man to support his nation with his soul and all he commands because it deserves it since it has given us life in the name of God and allowed us to inherit the best.''

Saddam's trials on war crimes charges begin this fall.

The deadline for a new constitution already was extended by a week last Monday after negotiators failed to reach agreement on a number of contentious issues, including federalism, distribution of Iraq's oil wealth, power relationships among the provinces and the role of the Shiite clerical hierarchy in Najaf.

The 15-member Sunni Arab bloc issued its statement after complaining that it was being sidelined by Shiites and Kurds, who were cutting deals without them.

''At a time when there are few hours left to announce the draft, we still see no active coordination and seriousness to draft the constitution,'' the statement said.

Sunni Arabs said they were only invited to a single meeting with the other community negotiators since Monday. That session was held Friday.

The statement urged the United States, the United Nations and the international community to intervene to prevent a draft constitution from moving forward without unanimous agreement, ''which would make the current crisis more complicated.''

Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite, told Forat television that 97 percent of the document had been agreed upon and would be submitted to parliament by the deadline.

Iraq's Sunnis Appeal to U.S. and U.N. to Block Constitution Draft - New York Times

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