Iraqi parties continue to exchange draft proposals
Iraqi parties on Saturday continued to negotiate a draft constitution . A Sunni representative said Saturday that Sunnis submitted counterproposals on Iraq's constitution and would meet with the U.S. envoy, who has urged the country's factions to produce a charter acceptable to all.
Earlier, parliament Speaker Hajim al-Hassani, himself a Sunni, said Shiites and Kurds had made amendments to address Sunni concerns about federalism and purging former ruling party members. But Sunni negotiator Fakhri al-Qaisi argued his side saw no "essential changes" in that offer. "The final proposal has been given to the Sunnis last night but they have not yet responded," parliament speaker Hajim al-Hasani told AFP.
On Friday, Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish leaders decided to forward an amended constitution to parliament this weekend, even though Sunni negotiators stated they rejected the latest document.
If an agreement is not reached, Iraqis will vote on the charter in the Oct. 15 referendum with Sunnis expected to boycott.
In Washington, U.S. officials insisted negotiations were on track and that talks at some level were still ongoing before dawn Saturday. However, Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba said the two-month contacts were hopelessly deadlocked.
"This is the end of the road," Kubba told Al-Arabiya television. "In the end, we will put this constitution to the people to decide."
Failure to win Sunni endorsement of the draft would be a major embarrassment for President Bush, who made urgent telephone calls to a top Shiite leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, and called him to make compromises with the Sunnis to keep them on board, The AP reported.
Following Bush's call, Shiite officials submitted compromise proposals to the Sunnis, agreeing to delay decisions on federalism and the status of members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party until a new parliament is elected in December.
Late Friday, the Shiites said a "consensus" had been reached and the revised draft was ready to be submitted to parliament.
But Sunni negotiators angrily rejected the compromises. A leading Sunni negotiator, Saleh al-Mutlaq, called on Iraqis to reject the document in the referendum, warning of a "terrifying and dark future awaiting Iraq."
Kamal Hamdoun, another senior Sunni negotiator, also insisted that "no agreement has been reached so far."