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Iraq Constitution Drafters Miss Deadline Despite 'Heroic Efforts'

The committee drafting Iraq’s new constitution missed its deadline yesterday, but was applauded for their ''heroic efforts''

Iraq Constitution Drafters Miss Deadline Despite 'Heroic Efforts'

The committee drafting Iraq’s new constitution missed its deadline yesterday, but was applauded for its “heroic efforts” towards building the foundation for a free and democratic Iraq for all Iraqis.

With less than an hour before the expiration of yesterday’s midnight deadline, Iraq's 275-member parliament voted to extend a deadline for negotiators to present a draft constitution by one week, to Aug. 22.

Although President Bush had insisted that the Aug. 15 deadline be met to maintain political momentum and blunt Iraq's deadly insurgency, the president issued a statement yesterday, applauding “the heroic efforts of Iraqi negotiators.”

“Their efforts are a tribute to democracy and an example that difficult problems can be solved peacefully through debate, negotiation, and compromise," he said, from his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Bush also expressed his appreciation for “[the committee’s] work to resolve remaining issues through continued negotiation and dialogue.”

Meanwhile, Iraq President Jalal Talabani, who noted that "huge efforts were exerted,” said principal issues had been settled but that the “crucial project” needed closer examination, and therefore, more time.

Expressing similar sentiments, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said, “We should not be hasty regarding the issues and the constitution should not be born crippled.”

"We are keen to have an early constitution, but the constitution should be completed in all of its items," he said, according to the Associated Press.

Iraqi leaders said Tuesday that key parts of Iraq's draft constitution that address issues such as the role of Islam and the power of local governments remain undecided.

Late last month, members of the committee drafting the document said religion would play a major role in Iraq's new constitution, which stated at the time that no law would be approved that contradicts "the rules of Islam."

In a report published after the July 27 announcement, the Chicago Tribune noted that such wording could potentially see Iraq transformed into an Islamic state and goes further than U.S. officials had wanted in defining the role religion will play in shaping the country's laws. It could also open the door to a strongly Islamic style of governance in the future, the Tribune added.

In addressing the parliament session yesterday, parliament speaker Hajim al-Hasani said that although "we weren't able despite all efforts to reach solutions that would satisfy everyone […] the national assembly should draft the permanent constitution within a period ending by August 22."

After the completion of the draft constitution, the document is scheduled to be submitted to the Iraqi citizens for approval in a national referendum Oct. 15. If approved, it will serve as the basis for a new round of elections Dec. 15.

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