Rebels kill 33 Iraq as committee fails to solve constitution woes

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Iraqis tasked with drafting the new constitution failed Tuesday to make progress in resolving issues holding up the completion of the charter as rebel attacks left at least 33 dead.

The constitution committee tried to solve some of the issues as parliamentarians vowed that the draft charter will be ready by August 15, on time for a scheduled mid-October referendum.

“We continued to discuss Tuesday some of the articles of the first chapter of the draft constitution that talks of basic principles on which state of Iraq will be based,” Munther Fadhal, a panellist told AFP after the meeting.

Unresolved issues like the role of Islam, whether Kurdish should be an official language nationwide alongside Arabic, and how to usher federalism were discussed.

“Finally we decided to forward these issues to political leaders of Iraq like President Jalal Talabani, former premier Iyad Allawi and a few others,” Fadhal said.

“They will give their opinion next week which will be incorporated in the draft.” He said the panel take up the issue of citizenship on Wednesday.

US officials have pressured Iraqi leaders to complete the document on time amid fears a delay could undermine public confidence in the political process and play into the hands of insurgents.

There is also disagreement on how government revenues, particularly the oil receipts that make up the lion’s share, should be shared between the federal government and the regions.

As the haggling continued behind closed doors, MPs blasted Kuwait on the 15th anniversary of Iraq’s invasion for what they say are their neighbour’s repeated violations of Iraq’s southern border.

Kuwaitis have destroyed a sand berm marking the border between the two countries and “penetrated one kilometre inside Iraqi territory,” said Jawad Maliki, who heads the parliamentary committee in charge of defence and security.

“They have also crossed the border to install oil derricks on our agricultural land, have destroyed buildings in (the border town of) Umm Qasr with bulldozers and installed new border demarcations,” he said.

Maliki said three MPs would join a foreign ministry official in Kuwait on Wednesday for border talks with Kuwaiti officials.

A joint commission set up to discuss the eventual pullout of US-led troops from Iraq met for the first time on Tuesday even as rebels continued their deadly attacks mainly aimed at Iraqi and US forces.

A powerful blast shook central Baghdad when a suicide car bomber blew himself up near a US military convoy, killing four people and wounding 23 others, including four women, medics said.

The US military said some US soldiers were wounded, but provided no details.

Another US military statement said that seven Marines died in action in two separate attacks Monday west of Baghdad.

The total number of US military personnel killed in Iraq since the March 2003 US-led invasion stood at 1,797 as of Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.

Gunmen opened fire on a group of people leaving a city hospital where they had been to see the body of a Sunni cleric, murdered late Monday. Five people were killed.

Another six people, including five policemen, were killed when a suicide car bomber targeted a police patrol at a checkpoint in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, while another police officer was gunned down in western Baghdad.

Iraqi police Colonel Mizher Hamad Yusef died in a drive-by shooting, and two finance ministry employees were shot dead on their way to work in Baghdad, an interior ministry official said.

In another incident, a civilian was killed and five wounded, four of them policemen, when a suicide car bomber attacked a police patrol in the centre of Baquba, 60 kilometres northeast of Baghdad.

Four Iraqi soldiers were killed when a bomb hidden in a dead dog exploded as an army patrol was passing in the northeastern town of Balad. Five soldiers were also wounded.

Three other people working at a US base in the northern town of Baiji were killed when the bus they were travelling in was ambushed by armed gunmen, while a construction worker was shot dead, also in Baiji.

Three civilians, including one woman, were killed in mortar attacks in the restive town of Fallujah, 50 kilometres west of Baghdad.

An engineer was gunned down in the northern town of Dhuluiyah, while a man was killed in a Baghdad bookshop when a bomb reportedly hidden in a suitcase blew up, witnesses said.

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