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Drafters of Iraqi constitution reach agreement on oil, name

BAGHDAD, Iraq—Members of the committee that's drafting a new Iraqi constitution announced tentative agreements on some issues on Saturday.

They agreed to distribute Iraq's oil wealth among its 18 provinces in accordance with each province's population, and that Islam was the official religion of Iraq.

They also struck a compromise on the name of their country: the Iraqi Republic. Shiite Muslims had wanted the word "Islamic" in the country's name, but Kurds and secularists balked.

Other issues, however, remain unresolved, including:

_The identity of the new Iraq: The drafting committee must decide whether the constitution should mention each of Iraq's minorities, whether Kurdish should join Arabic as an official language and whether Iraq should be identified as an Arab nation. (Kurds aren't Arabs.)

_The role of Islam: The debate is about whether the constitution should enshrine a role for the marjaiya, the highest Shiite religious authority. Also up for debate is whether Iraq's holy shrines should be given special protection, and to what extent Islamic law should govern inheritance, marriage, divorce and other family issues.

_The central government: The constitution will determine whether a president or a prime minister leads the country, how many vice presidents or deputy premiers are allowed and whether cabinet members will be drawn from the legislature or selected from outside the government.

The draft of the constitution is supposed to be completed by Monday and put before Iraqi voters in a referendum no later than Oct. 15. It will be ratified if a majority of voters in the country approve, but it will fail if two-thirds of the voters in three or more provinces reject it.

If the constitution passes, elections for a permanent government will be held no later than Dec. 15, and a new government will take office by the end of this year.

If the draft constitution isn't completed by Aug. 15, or if voters reject it, a new national assembly will be elected, a new transitional government will be installed by the end of the year and the constitution drafting process will start all over again.


(Chin reports for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.)


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.