BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi officials reached
agreement early yesterday on the draft of an interim constitution
and will probably sign the document after a Shiite Muslim religious
holiday ends, a spokesman for a member of the Iraqi Governing
Council said.

Entifadh Qanbar, spokesman for council member Ahmad Chalabi,
said the meeting ended at 4:20 a.m. with “full agreement
… on each article.” Qanbar expected the document to be
signed Wednesday — one day after the end of the Shiite feast
Ashoura.

Top U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, who was closely involved
in the final days of negotiation, must then approve the
document.

Qanbar said the draft charter will recognize Islam as “a
source of legislation” — rather than “the”
source as some officials had sought — and that no law will be
passed that violates the tenets of the Muslim religion.

The draft charter accepts the principle of federalism but leaves
it up to a future elected national assembly to decide the details
of self-rule for the Kurdish minority. It allows the current
Kurdish autonomy government to continue “under a united
Iraq,” Qanbar said.

The document also sets aside for women 25 percent of the seats
in the provisional legislature, he said.

“The atmosphere was very constructive,” he said of
the long day of negotiations. “Alternative language and
creative ways were brought to the table to come out with consensus
on each issue.”

The issue of the role of Islam in the constitution was a
contentious one throughout three nights of talks. Conservatives
wanted Islamic law to be the principle source of legislation
— phrasing that Bremer had hinted he would veto.

“There was an agreement among all council members that
Iraq will not be an Islamic state,” Qanbar said. “The
language was put in a way not to offend the Islamic identity of
most of the people but nor to offend the other side and give the
impression that it’s an Islamic state.”

Members Governing Council had been holding marathon meetings for
days trying to overcome serious divisions over the interim
constitution, a key step in U.S. plans to hand over power to the
Iraqis on June 30.

Meanwhile, Polish soldiers sprayed a bus with gunfire after it
crashed into a checkpoint outside the holy city of Karbala, where
Shiite Muslims are holding their most important festival of the
year.

Eight Iranian pilgrims, an Iraqi civil defense trooper and a
Pole were injured, police and emergency officials said. But Polish
officials denied there were any pilgrims in the bus and said they
appeared to have thwarted a terrorist attack.

Coalition forces have stepped up security around southern cities
during the Ashoura festival, as 1.5 million Shiite pilgrims —
including about 100,000 Iranians — converge on the shrine
cities of Karbala and Najaf. The festival marks the death of Imam
Hussein, a Shiite saint and grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

The bus, apparently having brake troubles, hit a minivan and
swerved into a concrete barrier at the checkpoint manned by Polish
and Iraqi security forces, witnesses said. Polish troops apparently
thought the speeding vehicle was making a suicide attack.

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