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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August, 2005, 04:34 GMT 05:34 UK
Iraq constitution deadline looms
An Iraqi woman walks past posters informing the public about the new constitution
A referendum on the constitution is due to be held on 15 October
Politicians drawing up a new constitution for Iraq must soon announce whether they need more time to complete their task.

Although they have until 15 August to deliver the document, Monday is the last day for them to apply for an extension to that deadline.

The United States has been putting strong pressure on the Iraqi committee to finish its work on time.

Its 71 members met late into the night on Sunday to consider their progress.

The US and Britain fear that a delay might play in the hands of insurgent groups, which have intensified their attacks.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flew to Baghdad last week to insist that the panel meet the original 15 August deadline.


That is when the new constitution is due to be voted on in parliament.

A referendum scheduled for 15 October would allow Iraqi citizens to accept or reject the charter.

An election in mid-December would then pave the way to the coalition's withdrawal.

But if the panel fails to apply for an extension and is unable to complete its work in time, parliament will be dissolved.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (R) talks to US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad
Talabani demanded the constitution be completed as scheduled
A BBC correspondent in Baghdad says the draft constitution is a crucial document for the future of Iraq, but there are still big differences among those drawing it up.

Some of the most contentious issues include federalism, the role of Islam, distribution of national wealth and the name of the country.

President Jalal Talabani met US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Sunday.

In a statement that followed the talks, he underlined the need "to finish the writing of the constitution at the scheduled time".

The constitution issues that are dividing the committee

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