Iraq: UN welcomes Sunnis' planned return to constitution drafting

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
BAGHDAD, 27 July (IRIN) - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday welcomed the anticipated return of Sunni representatives to the committee drafting the new Iraqi constitution, following their withdrawal last week after two of their members were assassinated.

Sunni members walked out after the killings of Mijbil Sheikh al-Issa and Dhaman al-Jabouri, in protest at what they said was the government's failure to provide adequate security.

The Sunni Muslim delegates added to the 55-member constitutional committee last month to expand the Sunni community's participation in the political transition.

The head of the constitutional drafting committee, Hammam Hammoudi, confirmed in Baghdad on Wednesday that all the Sunni Muslim representatives, but for the two deceased men, were now back in the drafting process.

There is, as yet, no agreement on who will take their places, the Sunni Arab deputy head of Iraq's constitutional committee, Adnan al-Janabi, told IRIN on Wednesday.

Sunni representatives in Iraq said they were ending a boycott of the committee because there was important work to do and the Sunni community had to be represented. The draft constitution is due to be completed for debate and approval by the national assembly by 15 August.

Kofi Annan said in a statement on Monday that he was "encouraged" by the agreement between the Iraqi transitional government and the Sunni Conference enabling the return.

The end of the boycott was not unexpected, according to local sources, but was important to keeping momentum in the drafting process.

Hammoudi said on Wednesday that the constitutional committee would make a progress report on Monday, 1 August, when it would also say when it expected the complete draft constitution to be available.

He also welcomed the government's decision to conduct an independent criminal investigation into the assassinations of the two Sunni constitutional committee members, Mijbil Sheikh al-Issa and Dhaman al-Jabouri.

"Those responsible should be apprehended and prosecuted," the UN chief said in a statement issued by his spokesman.

Addressing the fraught political transition in Iraq, Kofi Annan on Monday pledged the United Nations' continued support for the process. "The Secretary-General urges all Iraqi parties to continue working together to achieve consensus around a new permanent constitution within the established timeframe," he said.

Sunni Arabs largely stayed away from the 30 January elections for the transitional national assembly, which appoints the committee, and were therefore unrepresented on it until last month.

The UN has been trying to have all sections of society brought into the constitution drafting process. On 16 June, it welcomed the agreement to expand the committee by adding Sunni Arabs, the dominant political force in Saddam Hussein's ousted regime, who represent about 20 percent of the population.

Shi'ite Arabs, who make up about 60 percent of the electorate, dominate the assembly after turning out strongly in January's elections, together with the mainly Sunni Kurds, who represent about 20 percent.

The UN has repeatedly called for a constitutional process that considers the demands of the different political constituencies in Iraq.

On Tuesday, Kofi Annan urged all Iraqi parties "to continue working together to achieve consensus around a new permanent constitution within the established time-frame."


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