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Federalism still undecided in Iraqi constitution; US optimistic on renewed negotiations

[JURIST] Iraqi leaders confirmed Tuesday that key unresolved issues in drafting the Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive] lead to Monday's one-week deadline extension [JURIST report]. According to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite, the primary issues of contention are distribution of oil wealth and federalism; Shiite lawmakers are also saying that the unresolved issues include women's rights, the role of Islam, and the right of Kurds to eventually secede. Kurdish politicians defended their push for self-determination Tuesday as necessary for their protection "in case troubles erupt in Iraq in the future." Shiites support federalism and want an autonomous region in the south as Kurds have in the north. Sunni Arabs oppose federalism, and fear it will split the country. AP has more.

Reacting to the deadline extension, President Bush praised the efforts [White House statement] of lawmakers in Iraq, stating "Their efforts are a tribute to democracy and an example that difficult problems can be solved peacefully through debate, negotiation and compromise." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that she remains confident [press conference transcript] that the seven-day extension will be sufficient for the Iraqi drafting committee to resolve any remaining issues. Rice also praised lawmakers for their dedication to the constitutional process, describing it as "Democracy at work." Reuters has more. The view from Iraq is not quite as optimistic, as some Iraqi citizens said Tuesday that extended talks on the constitution would cause more problems for the Iraqi people and that the negotiations should end as soon as possible. Reuters has more.

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