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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 August 2005, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Iraq's Sunnis reject constitution
Members of the Iraq draft constitution panel
The final draft follows weeks of wrangling and compromise
Iraq's Sunni leaders have rejected the Iraqi draft constitution and called for intervention by the UN and Arab league.

The joint declaration by the team of negotiators representing Iraq's Sunni minority came as a final version of the document was presented to parliament.

The Iraqi people will decide in a referendum, scheduled to take place by mid-October, whether to accept it.

But as the Sunni community effectively has a veto, there is a high chance the document will never come into force.

Call for backing

For its ratification, the constitution needs the approval of a majority of voters across the country and not to be rejected by two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates.

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani has called on all Iraqis to support the draft constitution, which comes after weeks of wrangling and compromise.

CONTROVERSIAL POINTS
Federalism, and forming of semi-autonomous regions
Terminology used to eradicate influence of former Baath regime
Structure of authority between presidency, parliament and government

"We hope that this constitution will be accepted by all Iraqis and that it will be for everybody. We are optimistic...

"For sure there is no book that is perfect and cannot be amended except the holy Koran," he said.

However, the country's Sunni minority are refusing to back it, a move analysts say will be a blow to the US, which has attempted to involve the once dominant Sunnis in negotiations in the hope of undermining the Sunni-led insurgency.

Federalism fears

"We declare that we don't agree and we reject the articles that were mentioned in the draft and we did not reach consensus on them in what makes the draft illegitimate," the statement read by Abdul-Nasser al-Janabi said.

"We call upon the Arab League, the United Nations, and international organizations to intervene so that this document is not passed and so that the clear defect in it is corrected," he added.

CONSTITUTION SCHEDULE
15 August deadline extended twice
National referendum on constitution by mid-October
Full government elections by mid-December

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Nonetheless the Sunni representatives vowed to not entirely disengage from the political process, saying that they would play an active role in the elections scheduled for December and calling on all Sunnis in Iraq to register to vote.

Sunnis remain implacably opposed to provisions in the constitution which exclude former Baath party officials from public office and which pave the way towards federalism.

They are concerned that allowing for federalism may lead to the creation of an autonomous Shia area in southern Iraq - like the Kurdish north but under Iran's influence.

They fear greater autonomy for the Kurdish north and Shia south could divide the country, and compromise their share of revenues from those oil-rich regions.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Ongoing row overshadows Iraq constitution signing



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