19 August 2005 -- Thousands of supporters of radical Iraqi Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrated in Baghdad today against plans to turn the country into a federation.
At the same time, Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i voiced fears that Iraq could descend into "civil war" unless federalism is entrenched in the new constitution. In an interview with Reuters, al-Rubaiy'i said federalism was the only way to give Iraq's different ethnic and sectarian groups equal rights.
"I'm supporting the most decentralized system, the most federal system," he said. "I'm supporting the rights of people to self-determination because I think this is one of the very basic human rights. I'm supporting that the local people should enjoy some of the wealth they are sitting on."
Iraqi politicians are struggling to overcome sensitive issues such as federalism as they negotiate to meet an 22 August deadline to present a draft constitution to parliament.
In other developments today, seven people, including three members of the country's main Sunni party were reported killed in the northern city of Mosul. The three members of the Iraqi Islamic Party were kidnapped as they were putting up posters to call for participation in December's scheduled elections.
Party spokesman Nuriddin Hayali said they were later executed by a firing squad in front of a mosque and that no one tried to prevent the execution.
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