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Iraqi constitution could allow religious discrimination, Christian leaders warn

[JURIST] Christian leaders in Iraq have warned officials that the draft constitution [English translation; JURIST news archive] "opens the door widely" to discrimination of religious minorities in the country. Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly of the Chaldeans [Wikipedia backgrounder] met with the Iraqi president and prime minister earlier this week and said that certain parts of the draft constitution were contradictory. In particular, Delly pointed to Articles 2.1(b) and 2.2 of the text, which promise religious rights and freedom, compared to Article 2.1(a), which forbids laws that are inconsistent with the rules of Islam. Christian leaders have warned that the latter provision could allow the passage of discriminatory laws and urged an amendment to the draft. Minorities have previously expressed concern [JURIST report] with the draft. A referendum on the constitution is planned for Oct. 15. Zenit.org has more.

In a related story, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari [Wikipedia profile] told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that the government expected insurgents to attempt to disrupt the Oct. 15 referendum and that the coming months could be determinative for the country's democratic future. He urged the UN to take a larger role in the constitutional referendum and December elections, through increased funding and security efforts. Echoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's calls for a more transparent constitutional process [JURIST report], UN Special Envoy to Iraq Ashraf Qazi told the Council that restoring an inclusive, participatory political process remains a challenge. Qazi also said the UN is encouraging the Iraqi government "to step up its efforts to promote and protect human rights." The UN has a news release on the meeting. AP has more.

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