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ARABS-UN - Sep 7 - UN holds Presses As Iraq Constitution Said Amended.

The UN says it refused to start printing Iraq's draft constitution, delaying yet again efforts to get millions of copies to voters before a referendum now fixed for Oct 15. One negotiator from the Sunni Arab minority which has been lobbying for changes to the text adopted by parliament on August 28 said non-Arab Kurdish leaders agreed to an amendment to the draft to strengthen wording on Iraq's nature as an Arab state. Others involved were not available for comment. UN official in Baghdad Nicholas Haysom said: We haven't been given authority to print it", adding that he could not say whether the existing draft had been amended. "From our perspective, and we are helping in printing and distribution, we are awaiting a text certified by the National Assembly. We don't expect that to happen before Sunday". Iraqi parliamentary officials had said earlier in the week that printing would start on Sep 7 after last-minute efforts to fine-tune wording to appease Sunni leaders had failed. Haysom said he could not say whether the difficulty with the text as it stood was that parliament had failed to approve the text properly last week or whether that text had changed. Sunni negotiator Saleh Al Mutlak said that in talks in Arbil with Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani, other Sunni leaders had persuaded the non-Arab Kurds to amend the wording of the draft referring to Iraq's Arab nature. It had said Iraq's Arabs were part of the Arab nation. He said it now read "Iraq is a founding and an active member of the Arab League". But Mutlak said the text still did not meet with approval from the once dominant Sunni minority, which has voiced concerns about devolving power to Kurds and majority Shiites in northern and southern provinces. "We will start a campaign to vote 'No' in the referendum", he said. If two thirds of voters in three of Iraq's 18 provinces reject the constitution it will be vetoed and an election in December will choose a new interim parliament to draft a new text. Earlier, the Independent Electoral Commission said the date of the referendum had now been fixed for Oct 15, the latest date possible under the interim constitution. With little over a month for the electorate to digest the charter, Haysom said starting printing was a priority to ensure that voters were fully informed. "It will be challenging", he said. "But I'm sure we can find ways and means ... If it's not finished by Sunday, we'll probably start to panic". The next scheduled sitting of the National Assembly is on Sep 10.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Sep 10, 2005
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