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Bush Applauds 'Heroic' Iraqi Efforts in Writing Constitution

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2005 – President Bush lauded "the heroic work" of the Iraqi constitutional committee after Iraqi officials announced Aug. 15 that the committee was granted a seven-day extension to agree on terms of a draft constitution.

The Iraqi Transitional Administrative Law had set an Aug. 15 deadline for the 275-member National Assembly to approve a draft constitution. Shortly before the deadline, the assembly approved the one-week extension. The original law that approved the deadline allowed for up to a six-month extension.

In an Aug. 15 statement, Bush said the negotiators' efforts "are a tribute to democracy and an example that difficult problems can be solved peacefully through negotiation and dialogue."

"We wish the Iraqi leaders and the Iraqi people well as the negotiators complete the constitutional drafting process," Bush said.

In a State Department briefing Aug. 15, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said U.S. officials are confident the Iraqis will complete the constitutional process.

"Iraqis have continued to demonstrate their commitment to a new Iraq based on the rule of law and their desire for a common future," Rice said. "We are witnessing democracy at work in Iraq. The new constitution will be the most important document in the history of the new Iraq."

Issues holding up final agreement on a constitution include women's rights and Kurdish autonomy, according to press reports. Rice said the United States has made it clear that "modern Iraq will be an Iraq in which women are recognized as full and equal citizens," but she refused to second-guess the Iraqi planners on their decisions. She said the Iraqis are considering "all of the difficult issues before them."

"We have to remember that this is an enormously important document," she said. "And what you have here is a people who are trying to build a common future after decades of tyranny."

Rice stressed that drafting the constitution is an Iraqi process, but added that the United States has "been very involved with the Iraqis every step of the way."

She said she sees the Iraqis' continued work on the draft constitution as a positive sign. "What that says is that they are really committed to putting together a document that they believe in, a document that can be a foundation for a free and democratic Iraq for all Iraqis," she said.

"They didn't change the process. They didn't walk out of the process. They didn't try to go around the process," she continued. "Instead they have remained committed to a process to bring this together for all Iraqis. And I think it's pretty impressive what they've achieved so far."

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