BAGHDAD,(AP) – Sunni members of the committee drafting Iraq”s new constitution rejected Kurdish demands for a federal state, saying it cannot be implemented under foreign military occupation and an unstable security situation.
The proposal came a day before Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish political leaders were scheduled to meet to try to thrash out differences on such sensitive issues as Iraq”s identity, the role of Islam, federalism and the distribution of wealth in order to meet the August 15 deadline for parliamentary approval.
The Sunnis said that federalism could be implemented in the future when there is a parliament that represents all Iraqis, said member Kamal Hamdan, in reference to the current National Assembly that only has 17 Sunni Arab members of the 275 legislators.
"The proposal rejects federalism at the present time because it is difficult to implement it when the country is occupied and the security situation is unstable," Hamdan said.
Most Kurds and some Shiites are for federalism but Sunnis have been against it from the beginning fearing it will lead to dividing the country.
The Sunni proposal came two days after Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said "the Kurdish people have the right to secede."
Saturday”s move by Sunni Arabs to keep the decision on federalism for the future parliament seems to be because they fear that the predominantly Kurdish and Shiite parliament can approve it easily. Sunni Arabs, who many of them boycotted the January 30 general elections following calls by some of their leaders and threats by insurgents, are expected to participate in bigger numbers on the Decemeber 15 elections.
Humam Hammoudi, chairman of the 71-member committee drafting the constitution, had called political leaders from the Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shiite communities to meet to see if they can forge compromises in order to finish the document by the August 15 deadline. Hamadan said the Sunni proposal suggest decentralized administrations in each province that work closely with the central government in Baghdad. He added that concerning the northern Kurdish provinces of Irbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dahuk they continue running their affairs as they have been since 1991 when they established an autonomous region.