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Boycott, Bombings Continue In Iraq

Sunni Arabs decided Thursday to continue boycotting the committee drafting Iraq's new constitution, casting doubt on whether the group can meet an August deadline to complete its work. Insurgent attacks, including two suicide car bombings, killed at least 15 people, officials said.

Kamal Hamdoun, one of the 12 remaining Sunnis appointed to the commission last month, said the Sunnis would continue their boycott pending an international investigation into the assassinations of two colleagues Tuesday and until other demands are met.

Even if the Shiite and Kurdish committee members decided to try and meet the August deadline without Sunni participation, questions would be raised over the legitimacy of a charter and whether it would win Sunni approval in an October referendum.

Elsewhere, two suicide car bombings and a string of other attacks in and around Baghdad Thursday left 15 people dead, police and army officials said.

A suicide car bomber rammed into an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing six soldiers in Mahmoudiyah, about 20 miles south of the capital. Thirteen others were injured, army Lt. Odai al-Zeiadi said.

A second Iraqi army checkpoint in the southern Baghdad suburb of Bueitha was also hit by a suicide car bomber, killing one soldier, al-Zeiadi said. Six other soldiers were injured, he said.

In other developments:

  • Algeria's top envoy to Iraq, a second diplomat, and their driver were abducted Thursday in a western Baghdad neighborhood, police and embassy employees said. Police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the abduction took place Thursday afternoon in the upscale Mansour district, home to many embassies. They said they had no further information.
  • Unidentified gunmen assassinated three members of the Qadisiyah provincial council as they were heading to an Internet cafe in the western neighborhood of Khadhra, said police 1st Lt. Mohammad Al-Hiyali.
  • In Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, an employee of the Ministry of Trade was killed in a drive-by shooting, said police 1st Lt. Talib Naim said.
  • Explosives were thrown into the compound of a British security firm in western Yarmouk, killing one Iraqi guard and injuring two others, said police Maj. Falah Al-Mihamadawi. Witnesses said the armed attackers had driven up in a speeding car.
  • A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi patrol detonated at dawn in Latifiyah, killing three and injuring another three soldiers, said a Babil provincial police spokesman. Latifiyah is located about 20 miles south of Baghdad in a Sunni insurgent-heavy area known as the Triangle of Death.
  • Kurdish leaders have presented a redrawn map with a larger Kurdistan to the Iraqi National Assembly for consideration in the new constitution, a Kurdish party official said Thursday. "The Kurdistan parliament and Kurdish parties have ratified and agreed on this map. We want this map to be part of the constitution," said Mullah Bakhtiyar, a senior official with the Kurdish Democratic Party, one of the two main Kurdish political parties. The map reflected long-standing Kurdish claims that stretches their territory south toward the capital of Baghdad — well beyond the boundaries of the current Kurdish autonomous area.

    Fifteen Sunnis were appointed to the parliamentary committee last month in a move to lure many in the influential minority away from the insurgency.

    Two members resigned under rebel threats, and two prominent Sunnis — committee member Mijbil Issa and adviser Dhamin Hussein al-Obeidi — were assassinated in front of a Baghdad restaurant two days ago — prompting other Sunnis to suspend participation in the drafting.

    "Our decision is to go on with suspending our participation until our conditions are met," Hamdoun told The Associated Press.

    Conditions include an international investigation into Tuesday's killing and a greater role for Sunnis in drafting the constitution. He also demanded that the chairman of the committee, Shiite cleric Humam Hammoudi, withdraw a statement made Wednesday that the final draft would be finished by the end of the month.

    Hamdoun said there were no plans to name a replacement on the committee for Issa, a law professor from Kirkuk, until all the Sunni demands are met.

    The United States has been pressing for Iraq's parliament to approve the new constitution by Aug. 15 so it can be submitted to a national referendum two months later. If the charter is approved, then a new election for a fully constitutional government will be held in mid-December.

    A broad-based constitutional government could enable the United States and its international partners to begin scaling back their military presence in Iraq next year.

    Even if the constitution is finished, the lack of an endorsement by the Sunni community could cast doubt on whether the charter wins approval in the referendum. If two-thirds of the voters in any three provinces vote against it, the constitution cannot be approved.

    Sunni Arabs constitute about 20 percent of Iraq's 27 million people but form a majority in several provinces including Anbar, Salahuddin and Nineveh.

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