Monday, March 08, 2004

The Document is Signed

congrats on a job well done....but...its not going to seal the deal. they need elections, but not on sistani's terms:

Iraqi Council Signs Interim Constitution

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Mar 8, 12:33 PM (ET)


(AP) Iraqi Governing Council members Mahmoud Othman (from left) Mouwafak Al-Rubaie and Naseer Kamel...

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's Governing Council signed a landmark interim constitution Monday, a key step in U.S. plans to hand power to the Iraqis by July 1. But within hours, Iraq's top Shiite cleric issued a fatwa religious ruling criticizing the document, signaling that a dispute that delayed the signing was not over.

Before an audience of prominent Iraqi and American civilian and military officials - including top U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer - 21 of the 25 council members signed the document on an antique desk once owned by King Faisal I, Iraq's first monarch. Representatives of the absent four signed on their behalf.

Council president Mohammed Bahr al-Ulloum called the signing a "historic moment, decisive in the history of Iraq."

"There is no doubt that this document will strengthen Iraqi unity in a way never seen before," said Massoud Barzani, a Kurdish leader on the council. "This is the first time that we Kurds feel that we are citizens of Iraq."

The charter, which includes a 13-article bill of rights, enshrines Islam as one of the bases of law and outlines the shape of a parliament and presidency as well as a federal structure for the country. Billed as the most liberal in the Arab world, it will remain in effect until the permanent constitution is approved in late 2005.

The White House issued a statement congratulating the Governing Council, and Secretary of State Colin Powell, addressing a gathering in Washington for International Women's Day, also praised the Iraqi people for the interim constitution.

"Read what it says about democracy, rights, liberty and what the new Iraq will look like," he said. "Read what it says, and you will see the vision the Iraqi people have for themselves. And let there be no doubt in anyone's minds that it is a bright future."

Powell added that the road ahead may be difficult "but it won't be as difficult as the road that was behind."

The ceremony was rife with symbols of unity, after council members patched over splits that erupted three days ago. The dispute - focused on two clauses - derailed an attempt to sign on Friday and fueled bitterness among Sunni and Kurdish members, who feared Shiite leaders were trying to grab more power.

Despite the signing, several Shiite council members said the disputed clauses will be subject to further negotiations and perhaps amended in a later document.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani issued a fatwa on his Web site that said the document "will not gain legitimacy except after it is endorsed by an elected national assembly."

Al-Sistani also made clear his reservations about the charter.

"This law places obstacles in the path of reaching a permanent constitution for the country that maintains its unity, the rights of its sons of all sects and ethnic backgrounds," he said.

The ayatollah - whose word holds strong influence among Iraq's Shiite majority - did not denounce the charter or call on his followers to reject it. But the fatwa adds weight to demands by Shiites on the council for amendments.

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