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Saddam to go on trial Oct. 19, faces hanging
Updated: 2005-09-05 06:56

Some Sunnis fear the charter will decentralize government in Iraq, giving greater autonomy to the southern Shi'ites, in line with the broad autonomy already enjoyed by the Kurds.

In particular, they fear losing out on Iraq's potentially vast oil wealth, with the main fields located in Kurdish and Shi'ite areas. Iraq has the world's third largest oil reserves.

The constitution has strained already tense relations between the three communities. The U.S.-backed government is facing an insurgency by Sunnis, with deadly attacks on Iraqi police and soldiers carried out on a daily basis.


Senior Sunni and Shi'ite figures are holding informal talks in Baghdad to amend some of the more contentious articles in the constitution and seek agreement on a text, Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni from the National Dialogue Council told Reuters on Sunday.

"There are some unofficial talks between friends from both sides, because if the constitution is presented in its present form without the approval of those who opposed it there will be a problem," he said, adding that talks started five days ago.

The talks have held up the printing of millions of copies of the constitution.

"Printing the five million copies has been a little delayed until we see what we can do in the talks on the changes," said Bahaa al Araji, a senior member of the National Assembly's constitution drafting committee.

A stampede on a bridge over the river Tigris in Baghdad last week, in which 1,005 Shi'ite pilgrims suffocated, drowned or were trampled to death, has exacerbated tensions even further.

Shi'ites blame Sunni radicals for firing mortar bombs and rockets into the huge crowd first, killing seven. Some officials accused militants of spreading rumors that there was a suicide bomber in the crowd. Others put the disaster down to accident.
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