The speaker of Iraq's parliament announced a one-day extension early Friday in talks on the new constitution - a fourth attempt to win Sunni approval. But he said that if no agreement is reached, the document would bypass parliament and be decided in an Oct. 15 referendum.
The Bush administration, however, expressed optimism that an agreement would be reached. "I think if Iraqi leaders say that they need a few days more to complete a historic document that will lay a foundation for a new and free Iraq, I think that that is certainly understandable," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said after the delay was announced.
According to The Ap, parliament speaker Hajim al-Hassani also said he remained hopeful of a deal. "We found that time was late and we saw that the matters will need another day in order to reach results that please everyone," al-Hassani said on national television shortly after the midnight deadline.
Al-Hassani agreed that no parliamentary vote was required since the assembly fulfilled its legal obligations by accepting the Shiite and Kurdish-approved draft on Monday.
"If we will not be able to reach agreements in the end, this constitution is going to be presented to the Iraqis in an Oct. 15 referendum," al-Hassani conveyed. "
Although the constitution requires only a simple majority in the referendum, if two-thirds of the voters in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces vote against it, the charter will be defeated. If voters reject the constitution, parliament will be dissolved and elections held by Dec. 15 to form a new one.