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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraqi Draft Constitution Opposed by Sunni Arabs

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq's new constitution must be for all the people of Iraq, not for a single community, and aspirations of Sunni Arabs should be met, President Jalal Talabani said Wednesday. Speaking after a meeting with parliament Speaker Hajim al-Hassani, Talabani said that stability could not be achieved without consensus among Iraq's Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

Sunni members of the drafting committee opposed several parts of the document, which was handed to parliament Monday, forcing a delay in the parliament's vote. Their objections include federalism, references to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and the description of Iraq as an Islamic -- but not Arab -- country.

"We will stand, with all our wisdom and strength, against anyone who wants to divide Iraq and fulfill this grand plot against the country," a major Sunni figure, Adnan al-Dulaimi, said Wednesday. "We are determined to safeguard the unity of Iraq. We call on all Iraqis to work on keeping the unity of the country."

Talabani, a Kurdish leader, said there was unanimity among all groups to exclude Baath Party members who committed crimes against the people and that the law to purge former members "should take into consideration Iraqi qualifications."

"Its measures should not include simple Baathists who belonged to the Baath for job necessities," Talabani said in a statement.

On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad urged Shiites and Kurds to reach out to Sunni Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of Iraq's population. He also called on the Sunnis to be flexible.

Al-Hassani, a Sunni, said discussions over the draft would continue until Thursday, adding that Sunnis were not against federalism but "they prefer that its approval and adoption come in stages."

 A deputy justice minister escaped assassination Wednesday when gunmen fired at his convoy in western Baghdad, killing four of his bodyguards and wounding five, police said. The five wounded bodyguards claimed they were shot at by U.S. troops. It was the second attempt against Awshoo Ibrahim in as many days.