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Deal Brokered On Iraqi Interim Constitution

Al-Najaf, Iraq; 7 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- A leading member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council said today that a deal has been reached with the country's top Shi'ite cleric on the interim constitution, Reuters reported.

After emerging from talks with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Shi'ite council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told reporters that an agreement had been reached and the document would be signed on 8 March.

The signing ceremony of the document was postponed at the last minute on 5 March after some Shi'ite leaders objected to certain clauses in the interim constitution, in particular regarding the veto powers of the Sunni and Kurdish minorities and the makeup of the presidential council.

The document is considered a key step toward preparing for the scheduled U.S. handover of political power in Iraq on 30 June.

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