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UN to help Iraqis print constitution
Updated: 2005-09-16 08:53

The United Nations plans to print and distribute 5 million copies of Iraq's draft constitution to Iraqis before the Oct. 15 referendum on the charter, a U.N. spokesman said Thursday.

Farhan Haq said officials hoped the Iraqi parliament would sign off on the text by Sunday.

"Once the transitional National Assembly designates a final draft constitution, we stand ready to assist in printing it and distributing that draft constitution so that the Iraqi people can make an informed choice in the upcoming referendum," Haq said.

"It's going to be a challenge getting this distributed all across Iraq in time for the October 15 referendum, but we're gearing up to do just that once we get the approved text," he added.

Haq wouldn't give any specifics about the cost of printing and distributing the text but said it would fall under the $25.4 million provided by the European Union, Canada, Denmark, Britain and the United States to support constitutional activities.

He said the 5 million copies probably will be printed in Baghdad, and that the main challenge would be distributing the document through local Iraqis and U.N. networks.

Hussein al-Shahristani, deputy speaker of Iraq's National Assembly, said Wednesday that several changes had been made in the text of the constitution that was adopted by the drafting committee and sent to parliament Aug. 28.

Al-Shahristani said the constitution has been finalized and would be sent to the United Nations for printing and distribution, but there were conflicting reports on when Iraq's parliament would formally sign off on the document.

The Sunni Arab minority rejected that document, which was approved by leaders of the Shiite Muslim majority and the Kurdish bloc.

The Associated Press in Baghdad obtained the new text, which has only minor changes from the previous document. Two articles were altered, one was dropped entirely and one was added.

The main change was a new clause noting that Iraq was a founding member of the Arab League, an addition Sunni Arabs sought to underline the country's links with the Arab world.

The dropped passage gives the constitution precedence over international human rights agreements, which the United States asked to be removed.

Al-Shahristani pointed to a change that says water resources will be managed by the central government and not by provincial authorities and another providing for the prime minister to have two deputies in the Cabinet.

Sunnis were unlikely to be appeased. They have vehemently opposed the draft constitution, particularly over the establishment of a federal system, arguing that turning the traditionally centralized country into a loose federation would set the stage for its disintegration.

Sunnis also object to references about Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated party and a description of Iraq as a Muslim but not Arab country.

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