Tuesday, March 23, 2004

"A recipe for the breakup of Iraq"

Ayatollah al-Sistani has written a letter to the UN "saying a U.S.-backed interim constitution is a recipe for the breakup of Iraq."

Iraq's most influential Shi'ite Muslim cleric has written to the United Nations, saying a U.S.-backed interim constitution is a recipe for the breakup of Iraq, according to a statement released yesterday.

Gunmen, meanwhile, killed two Finnish businessmen as they drove in Baghdad yesterday, the latest foreign civilians to die in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion a year ago. In the southern city of Basra, 14 British troops were wounded in two explosions during a demonstration.

In a March 19 letter to top U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani said he would not participate in upcoming meetings with U.N. officials should the world body endorse the interim law.

"This constitution that gives the presidency in Iraq to a three-member council, a Kurd, a Sunni Arab and a Shi'ite Arab, enshrines sectarianism and ethnicity in the future political system in the country," the Shi'ite leader's letter said.

It said the presidential system of the constitution "will lead to a dead end and puts the country in an unstable situation and could lead to partition and division."

The interim document stipulates that decisions by the three-man presidency must be unanimous.

Ayatollah al-Sistani said he would boycott the U.N. mission "unless the United Nations takes a clear stance that the constitution does not bind the [future Iraqi] National Assembly and is not mentioned in any new Security Council resolution concerning Iraq."

The National Assembly is to be elected before the end of January 2005.


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