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One-Week Extension Granted for Iraqi Constitution

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2005 – The Iraqi parliament voted today to extend the deadline for finalizing Iraq's new draft constitution by seven days, until Aug. 22, U.S. State Department officials confirmed.

The 275-member Iraqi National Assembly had been expected to sign off on the document by midnight today, the initial deadline established by the Transitional Administrative Law. The vote to extend the deadline occurred within 20 minutes of the midnight deadline, media reports noted.

Speaking on morning talk shows Aug. 14, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad reported that the Iraqi constitution committee had agreed on most key issues, but was still trying to hammer out differences over two major issues. These involve the role of the central government versus that of regional or state government entities, and the role of Islam, particularly women's rights, in the new Iraqi government.

The committee drafting the document left a decision on these two sticking points to the National Assembly, which opted to postpone the deadline until they can be resolved.

The assembly's other options were to reject the draft constitution and trigger national elections or to pass the undisputed parts of the draft and add amendments as the other issues get resolved.

Coalition and Iraqi officials agree that passage of an Iraqi constitution is an essential move toward political progress in Iraq. During his weekly radio address Aug. 13, President Bush called it "a critical step on the path to Iraqi self-reliance."

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