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U.S. Expresses Support For Iraqi Politicians

Iraqi officials discussing the draft charter last week 16 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush issued a statement praising what he called "heroic efforts" by Iraqi politicians trying to forge a deal on a new constitution, despite their failure to meet a 15 August deadline for a draft charter

Iraq's parliament on 15 August agreed to postpone by one week the deadline to receive a draft of a new constitution for the country.

The agreement to give the National Assembly until 22 August to write the constitution came after negotiators were unable to agree on several key issues -- namely the role of Islamic law, federalism, and the sharing of natural resources.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters late on 15 August that Iraqi officials have made "substantial progress" and expressed confidence in the political process in Iraq.

"We are witnessing democracy at work in Iraq," Rice said. "The new constitution will be the most important document in the history of the new Iraq. We are confident that they will complete this process and continue on the path toward elections for a permanent government at the end of the year."

If and when parliament approves the draft, it will then go to a nationwide referendum in October. Nationwide elections would follow in December.

In a separate development, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said late Monday that an Iraqi-Canadian citizen, Zaid Meerwali, who was taken hostage in Iraq on 2 August, has been killed by his captors.


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