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RFI Speaks With Constitution Drafting Committee Head

Iraq's Constitution Drafting Committee Chairman Humam Hammudi discussed the 15 October referendum on the constitution in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq on 6 October. Hammudi maintained that Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders would not bend to Sunni Arab demands for changes in the draft constitution, saying they would instead offer Sunni Arabs assurances for the future.

Hammudi: U.S. Ambassador [to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad] recently delivered some demands from the nonelected members [i.e., Sunni Arab] of the Constitution Drafting Committee. Some of these demands were [seeking] assurances on the national unity of Iraq, the Arab identity of Iraq, use of the Arabic language, and similar demands. We have seen these demands as a confirmation of what has already been in the constitution. If this confirmation clears some anxiety from their minds and souls, we support such a confirmation. But any change that would touch the text of the constitution would be refused by all communities and [political] blocs [participating in the constitution draft]. That would undermine the sessions held by the Constitution Drafting Committee, the talks conducted by political leaders, the voting in the National Assembly, and finally the opinions of the people that were enthusiastic about the constitution and its draft. That is why I do not think there would be a positive stance toward any real changes, changes within the text.

There has not been any positive stance on this, expressed either by the [U.S.] ambassador or by the nonelected members [of the constitution drafting committee], known also as those who have been made absent [since January 2005 general elections]. But as far as assurances and additions are concerned, which are in harmony with the constitution, this is something we have a positive stance on, if it supports and expands their [i.e., Sunni Arabs’] participation.

RFI: There are, however, some politicians – and Sunnis in particular – who have come forward with declarations that changes are to be done [in the constitution] within the next five days.

Hammudi: In fact, they believe that changes will happen but we welcome [proposals on] assurances. Basically, those must be only assurances or additions that are not in contradiction with the constitution. But any change in any article [of the constitution] would be a matter within the competences of the National Assembly, not of the [U.S.] ambassador or the UN.

RFI: How do you assess the latest [legal] regulation approved by the National Assembly on how to interpret the word of voters [according to Article 61, Clause C of Iraq’s interim constitution]? In your opinion, will this satisfy all parties?

Hammudi: Yes, this is, in fact, a question of another concession that the National Assembly has offered for the sake of confirming the transparency and neutrality of the next elections and of the referendum. It is in no country of the world that a minority within a minority could dismiss the constitution or any other decision adopted by millions. This has not happened anywhere in the world. It has no democratic logic. Despite that, we have accepted this logic that has now enabled the terrorists to dismiss the constitution in three governorates where terrorism is widespread. This is, if they perform their role as they have signaled in the area of Balad where they have distributed leaflets calling not to vote. We hope and believe, however, that after this people has challenged Saddam with all his tyranny and terror and after it has challenged the terror on the day of elections [in January 2005], it will present a similar challenge again on the day of referendum.

I believe the day [of referendum] is even more important because it will draw the future of Iraq. [The Iraqi people] will challenge terrorism to say “yes” to the constitution even though the interpretation may be in favor of those who want to dismiss the constitution through most insignificant numbers of votes [in the National Assembly], not of the votes from registered voters casting their ballots [in the referendum].

RFI: You do not agree, then, with the latest interpretation of the [referendum] votes?

Hammudi: I should say that this interpretation has been neither reasonable, nor legal, nor democratic, nor logical since its very beginning. We can have insisted on preserving the Article [61, Clause C of Iraq’s interim constitution], as much as the Kurdish [Coalition List] brothers and the [United Iraqi] Alliance had a sufficient mandate to annul it. We have chosen to amend it so that the others would not understand that we are sending to them a scary message about how they will vote or about terrorist activities that have encouraged the people who will say “no." We are not scared. We are ready and we have a great confidence that the vote of the people will be “yes."

(Translation by Petr Kubalek)