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Sunnis complain of being cut out

Associated Press
Published August 21, 2005

BAGHDAD - Sunni Arabs complained Saturday they were being sidelined in talks on the new constitution only two days before the deadline and warned that their community will reject the document if it is submitted to Parliament without Sunni consent.

"They will surprise us in the final hour," said Saleh al-Mutlaq, one of four main Sunni negotiators. But a Shiite politician, Khaled al-Attiyah, was upbeat and said the negotiations were in the final stage. He said the Shiites submitted a new proposal on the distribution of Iraq's oil wealth, one of the remaining obstacles to a deal by the Monday night deadline.

Sunni Arabs also object to demands by Kurds and the largest Shiite party for a federal state.

On Saturday, it appeared that only Kurds and Shiites were negotiating. Another principal Sunni negotiator, Ayad al-Samarai, said Sunnis agreed with the Kurds and Shiites on some points.

He said, "Concerning federalism, we are still holding to our position, which is that it be postponed until after the general elections, and we refused to accept it in the constitution at this time."

Samarai said the Sunnis accepted the existence of the Kurdish self-ruled region, established in 1991, but did not want the system duplicated elsewhere as long as U.S. and other foreign troops remain in Iraq.

Mutlaq alleged that the Americans, Shiites and Kurds were cutting deals and "we have no idea what is going on." A U.S. soldier assigned to the 42nd Military Police Brigade was killed Saturday in a roadside bombing, the U.S. military said. Also Saturday, about 5,000 people gathered outside the main mosque in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi to condemn the constitutional process. Police said a car used in the kidnapping and killing of three members of the largest Sunni Arab political party was confiscated Saturday after a shootout. Three insurgents were killed; it was unclear if they were part of the assassination team that Friday abducted the Sunni Arabs in Mosul as they were hanging posters urging Sunnis to register to vote. The gunmen drove them to a mosque, forced them against a wall and shot them dead.

[Last modified August 21, 2005, 00:51:14]

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