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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Sistani's not happy...again

Sistani's not happy...again

Iraqi Cleric Intensifies Opposition to Interim Constitution
Ayatollah Sistani Sends Letter to U.N. Threatening Boycott of Meetings

By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, March 22, 2004; 3:27 PM


BAGHDAD, March 22 -- Iraq's most powerful Shiite Muslim cleric intensified his opposition to the country's interim constitution in a letter released Monday, threatening to boycott meetings with U.N. envoys who are expected to help chart the transition from American occupation if the constitution is endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.


The threat by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani marked another dramatic assertion of the reclusive, 73-year-old cleric's authority in the attempts to fashion a political arrangement after the U.S. administration of Iraq ends on June 30. While Sistani has already made clear his objections to the interim constitution, the letter was forceful in questioning its legitimacy, demanding that it be amended and warning of the consequences of not revising a document praised by its supporters as the most liberal in the Arab world.

The letter, which was dated Friday and bore the stamp of Sistani's office in the sacred Shiite city of Najaf, said flaws in the constitution "will lead to a dead end and bring the country into an unstable situation and perhaps lead to its partition and division."

The interim constitution, known as the Transitional Administrative Law, was signed March 8 in what Iraqi and U.S. leaders praised as a landmark in Iraq's progress toward a democratic state. But the signing followed days of wrangling prompted by Sistani's objections, and within hours, Shiite members of Iraq's Governing Council insisted that parts of the document had to be revised.

The document calls for nationwide elections to be held by the end of January 2005 to choose a 275-member transitional assembly. That body will serve as a legislature, draft a permanent constitution and choose a president and two deputy presidents. By unanimous decision, the three-member executive will then choose a prime minister and cabinet to run the government.

At the time, Shiite members of the Governing Council said Sistani objected to two key provisions in the constitution: a clause that gave Kurds effective veto power over a permanent constitution and another that allows either of the deputy presidents -- likely a Kurd and a Sunni Arab -- to reject decisions of a Shiite president. While most groups in Iraq contest the precise figures, Shiites are believed to number about 60 percent of the population, with Sunni Arabs and Kurds the largest minorities.

In the letter released Monday, Sistani specifically mentioned only his objection to the three-member executive. He said it "lays the foundation for sectarianism in a future political system." Supporters of the arrangement have contended that the veto power of the deputy presidents was the most decisive way to protect the interests of minority Sunnis and Kurds. But it clearly curbs the authority of a Shiite president, and Sistani said he believed it would create deadlock that could only be broken by foreign intervention.


He who must not be displeased.

The US is making it clear that his road to power is pretty much being granted in terms of short-term expediency. No one can stand up to his demands for fear of launching a civil war, yet his demands will lead to a civil war. The Kurds are ready to blow the country for their own ideas of nationhood and the Shia and Sunni disagree on that one point, to the point of accusing the Kurds of treason.

posted by Steve @ 9:33:00 AM

9:33:00 AM

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