Rumsfeld Praises Iraqi Agreement on Constitution
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla., Oct. 12, 2005 Iraqi leaders have reached an agreement that could lead to stronger Sunni support for a proposed constitution Iraqis will vote on Oct. 18, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters here today.
Rumsfeld said he had no first-hand knowledge of the agreement because he heard of it from staff members while he was engaged with a meeting of Central American defense and security ministers. But he added that he found the idea "enormously encouraging."
"It appears that the debates and discussions and pulling and hauling that we've been seeing in recent months in connection with the constitution has, at this moment, come out in a very favorable place some three days before the referendum," Rumsfeld told reporters who traveled with him from Washington.
The secretary said negotiators struck "something approximating a national compact" that will allow the Iraqis to come to terms on a national government after scheduled December elections.
"If (today's agreement) holds together over the next three days, you could have a constitution not only passed -- which I have believed all along it would pass -- but pass with the support of a much broader element within the Sunni community than had previously been the case," he said.
Rumsfeld said he believes today's developments suggest the Iraqi people have "developed a maturity ... in political compromise."
At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said the Iraqi agreement was a welcome development, because U.S. officials have always encouraged the political process there to be as inclusive as possible.
He also said it's good that the Iraqis are devising their own solutions to vexing issues. "This is an Iraqi process. They are the ones who are making the decisions about their future," he said. "That is part of what democracy and freedom are all about."
McClellan said Iraqi leaders are showing that "even though sometimes this process can be difficult, that they are determined to build a future that is based on freedom, that they are strongly committed to democracy."