BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi leaders will resume talks on Tuesday aimed at breaking a deadlock over drafting a constitution the U.S.-backed government hopes will help defuse a raging insurgency, a spokesman said.
A sandstorm that spread chaos across Baghdad prevented a second round of talks on Monday, stepping up pressure to meet an Aug. 15 deadline for handing the charter to parliament.
Government spokesman Laith Kubba told reporters Iraq”s President Jalal Talabani would now hold two meetings — one grouping up to seven officials, including Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, followed by a wider gathering of over 30 politicians.
Leaders from across Iraq”s sectarian and ethnic divides are trying to resolve sensitive issues such as regional autonomy, the role of Islam and control of oil revenues by Aug. 15.
A stark illustration of differing opinions was on display at Firdaws Square in central Baghdad, where crowds helped by U.S. forces brought down a statue of former dictator Saddam Hussein after Baghdad fell during the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
A group of Islamist women clashed verbally with secular women protesting on the square”s central reservation.
"Yes, yes to Islam, and the Koran is our constitution," the women in traditional black cloaks and veils chanted.
But Environment Minister Nirmeen Uthman, sitting unveiled in a smart dress inside a campaign tent, said: "We want to make sure there are no unjust laws that deny women their rights. Islam should be only one source of law, not the only one."
The Shi”ite-led interim government and its U.S. sponsors want to press on with the political process set in train with a Jan. 30 election to try to calm the insurgency led by the Sunni Arab minority that was dominant in Saddam”s Iraq.
Talabani, a Kurdish former guerrilla leader, voiced optimism about reaching a deal on the constitution, despite the difficulties. "We are determined to go on meeting until we find a resolution to all our disputes," he said on Sunday.
The government came to power in April promising stability and a brighter future. But suicide bombers and gunmen kill dozens of people every week and many Iraqis complain of poor services and high unemployment.