Iraq: Constitution Will Be On Time

Iraqi troops try to diffuse an angry mob of Iraqi army recruit applicants outside of the main recruitment center, Monday, Aug. 1, 2005, in the southern city of Basra, 550 kms. (340 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Hundreds of applicants came to Basra to enlist in the Iraqi army but when turned away for unknown reasons, the crowd began throwing rocks and advancing on the recruitment center. British and Iraq troops were then called in to quell the situation. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani) AP

Bowing to intense U.S. pressure, the head of the commission writing Iraq's new constitution agreed Monday to stick to the Aug. 15 deadline to complete the draft on condition that political leaders can exert their influence to overcome remaining differences.

Chairman Humam Hammoudi told parliament that he had recommended the commission formally ask the National Assembly for more time after the members deadlocked on such issues as the role of Islam, federalism and distribution of the national wealth.

But U.S. authorities ratcheted up pressure Sunday to stick by the deadline, which Washington considers essential to maintain political momentum, undermine the insurgency and pave the way for the Americans and their coalition partners to draw down troops next year.

After meeting with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, President Jalal Talabani said Sunday that all efforts must be made to stick by the timetable and finish the charter by Aug. 15. Intense meetings took place late into the night to find a way out of the impasse.

In other developments:

  • Twelve bodies, bound and shot, were discovered Monday in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Maalif, police said. The corpses, all male between the ages of 18 to 45 years old, were found by residents in a dumpster near the local school, said 1st Lt. Thair Mahmoud.

  • The U.S. military announced Sunday that five more American service members died in a pair of explosions in Baghdad the day before. Their deaths brought the number of Americans killed in the last week to 16.

  • In Basra, a brawl erupted when about 5,000 people showed up unannounced at an army recruiting center to volunteer for the Iraqi military. But officials said they had no instructions to take so many recruits. Disappointed, the crowd responded by throwing stones and empty drink bottles at the headquarters building. Guards opened fire, wounding at least three people, officials said.

    The deadline for the constitutional commission to ask for an extension was Monday. Appearing before parliament Monday, Hammoudi said that if political leaders meet this week to resolve the differences, "on Aug. 15 we can be able to conclude the constitution."

    Hammoudi added one condition: "that the leaders of the bloc meet on Aug. 5, and on Aug. 12, we receive the results of their discussion. If there are any points of disagreement among the leaders, they will be brought forward to the National Assembly in order for them to solve it."
    • Joel Roberts

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