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UPDATE ~ Iraqi leaders meet in last attempt to reach constitution agreement

[JURIST] Following a one-day extension in negotiations [JURIST report] on the Iraqi constitution [English translation; JURIST news archive], the speaker of the National Assembly said Friday that if consensus cannot be reached by the end of the day, the draft charter would bypass parliament and would instead be approved by an October 15 popular referendum. Hajim al-Hassani has said that the additional meeting Friday of the constitutional drafting committee [official website] was scheduled to allow Shiites time to respond to proposals tabled at a late meeting Thursday. According to al-Hassani, if there is no consensus after Friday's meeting the draft presented to parliament [JURIST report] earlier this week will be submitted to Iraqi voters in the October referendum. Several issues remain unresolved [JURIST report] at this point, with the main point of contention being the role of federalism. President Bush has reportedly made personal phone calls to Shiite leaders, urging them to make concessions [AP report] in the negotiations. Meanwhile, supporters of former president Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] held demonstrations [AFP report], protesting the draft constitution's branding of Hussein's Baath party as a terrorist group. The protesters also said they would reject the constitution because of its reliance on federalism. AP has more.

8:44 AM ET - AP is reporting that a Shiite official has said that his group has presented its final compromise offer on two issues that have so far blocked agreement on Iraq's constitution.

10:25 AM ET - Shiite leader Abbas al-Bayati said Friday that the concessions offered were on the issues of federalism and efforts to remove former members of Hussein's Baath Party from public life. Under the Shiite proposals, the new parliament that will be elected following approval of the constitution at the end of this year will be given the right to issue a law on the mechanism of implementing federalism. The new parliament will also be given authority to set a timetable for the work of the Supreme National Commission for de-Baathification. According to Al-Bayati, Shiites are waiting for a response from Sunni leaders. AP has more.

1:48 PM ET - AP is reporting that a Shiite negotitator has said there has been progress on the federalism issue, but there are still disputes over the status of Saddam Hussein's Baath party.

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