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Violence in Iraq Leaves 20 Dead - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP -A roadside bombing killed four American soldiers in southwestern Baghdad, the U.S. command said, and 16 Iraqi government workers died in a hail of gunfire as they left work on the western edge of the capital.

The bloodshed occurred against a backdrop of intense deliberations to forge a new constitution by an Aug. 15 deadline. A draft copy published Tuesday in a government newspaper said Islam would be designated as the main source of legislation — a departure from the model set down by U.S. authorities during the occupation.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who arrived unannounced in Baghdad Wednesday, said he would urge the Iraqis not to miss the deadline for completing the draft of a constitution to be submitted for a national vote in October in advance of subsequent elections for a new, permanent government.

He also said Iraqi leaders must take a more aggressive stance against what he called harmful interference from neighboring Syria and Iran. Rumsfeld has often criticized Iran and Syria for meddling in Iraq”s affairs. In his remarks Wednesday, he put the main onus on Iraqi leaders to do more to fix the problem.

&#34They need to be aggressively communicating with their neighbors to see that foreign terrorists stop coming across those borders and that their neighbors do not harbor insurgents and finance insurgents,&#34 he said in an in-flight interview with reporters accompanying him from Tajikistan.

A statement by the U.S. command said the soldiers from Task Force Baghdad died Sunday night when their vehicle ran over a roadside bomb in the southwest of the city. The statement gave no further details.

However, Jim Driscoll, a spokesman for the Georgia National Guard, said the victims were assigned to the 48th Infantry Brigade. They were the Georgia Guard unit”s first combat casualties since World War II.

The 16 Iraqi government employees were killed Tuesday evening on the western edge of the capital when gunmen fired at a pair of buses taking them from an Industry Ministry facility to their homes in Shiite neighborhoods.

Gunmen in two cars followed the buses and opened fire, also wounding 27 passengers, officials said.

U.S. and Iraqi officials hope that the new constitution and the government to be elected in December will help take the steam out of the insurgency, especially if the Sunni Arab community accepts the formula. Most of the insurgents are Sunni Arabs.

&#34It”s very important that the constitution is produced through the participation of all Iraqis,&#34 U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters Tuesday. &#34This is important for ending and defeating the insurgency,&#34 adding that Sunni Arabs can count on the United States to ensure their interests are protected.

However, a draft published Tuesday in the state-owned Al-Sabah newspaper included several key points demanded by the majority Shiites. The draft not only states that Islam is the main source of legislation but that no law will be approved that contradicts &#34the rules of Islam.&#34

That requirement that could affect women”s rights and set Iraq on a course far different from the one envisioned when U.S.-led forces invaded in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein.

&#34Islam is the official religion of the state and is the main source of legislation,&#34 the draft reads. &#34No law that contradicts with its rules can be promulgated.&#34

The document also grants the Shiite religious leadership in Najaf a &#34guiding role&#34 in recognition of its &#34high national and religious symbolism.&#34

Al-Sabah noted, however, that there were unspecified differences among the committee on the Najaf portion. Those would presumably include Kurds, Sunni Arabs and secular Shiites on the 71-member committee.

During the U.S.-run occupation, which ended June 28, 2004, key Shiite and some Sunni politicians sought to have Islam designated the main source of legislation in the interim constitution, which took effect in March 2004.

However, the U.S. governor of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer agreed only that Islam would be considered &#34a source&#34 — but not the only one. At the time, prominent Shiite politicians agreed to forego a public battle with Bremer and pursue the issue during the drafting of the permanent constitution.

Some women”s groups fear strict interpretation of Islamic principles could erode their rights in such areas as divorce and inheritance. It could also move Iraq toward a more religiously based society than was envisioned by U.S. planners who hoped it would be a beacon of Western-style democracy in a region of one-party rule and theocratic regimes.

Members of the constitutional committee said the draft was among several and none would be final until parliament approves the charter by Aug. 15.

Sunni Arabs involved in writing the charter have complained that Shiites and Kurds are trying to steamroll their version of the draft. The Sunnis agreed only Monday to resume work on the committee after they walked out to protest the assassination of two colleagues this month.

Sunni Arab support is crucial because the charter can be scuttled if voters in three of Iraq”s 18 provinces reject it by a two-thirds majority — and Sunni Arabs are a majority in four provinces. Sunni Arabs make up about 20 percent of Iraq”s 27 million people but dominate areas where the insurgency is raging.

If Aug. 15 deadline is met, voters will decide whether to approve the charter in mid-October and if they do, another general election will take place in December.

In an Internet statement Tuesday, al-Qaida”s wing in Iraq warned Iraqis not to take part in the constitutional referendum, saying democracy goes against God”s law and anyone who participates would be considered an &#34infidel,&#34 and earmarked for death.

In other developments in Iraq:

_A senior Baghdad International Airport official was abducted Wednesday by gunmen, along with his driver and another companion, police said. Mahir Yassin, director of the communication department at Baghdad airport, was kidnapped from Baghdad”s western Mansour neighborhood on his way to work by assailants in two cars.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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