Key constitutional amendments approved

Iraqi lawmakers approved a set of last-minute amendments to the constitution without a vote yesterday, sealing a compromise designed to win Sunni support and boost chances for the charter’s approval in a referendum just three days away.

The deal came as insurgents pressed their campaign to wreck the vote. A suicide bomber killed 30 Iraqis at an army recruitment center in a northern town that was struck by another bomber just a day earlier.

The amendments made some key concessions to Sunni Arabs, starting with the first article underlining that Iraq will be a single nation with its unity guaranteed – a nod to fears among the disaffected minority that the draft as it stands will fragment the country.

Other changes open the door to Sunni Arabs to try to make more dramatic substantive changes in the constitution later, after a new parliament is elected in December.

Sunnis want to weaken the considerable autonomous powers the Shiite and Kurdish mini-states would have under the constitution. But there’s no guarantee they will succeed: They will still likely face strong opposition from majority Shiites and Kurds in the new parliament



Syrian interior minister found dead in office

Syria’s interior minister, who effectively controlled Lebanon for two decades, was found dead in his office yesterday, days before the release of a U.N. report that could implicate high-ranking officials in the murder of Lebanon’s former prime minister.

The Syrian government called the death of Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kenaan a suicide, but opponents claimed it could be a murder to cover up top-level involvement.

The news of Kenaan’s death shocked Syrians, and the government felt compelled to stress it would not affect the country’s political stability.

Kenaan, who was Syria’s intelligence chief in Beirut for 20 years, was one of at least seven Syrians recently questioned by a U.N. team investigating the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.



White House defends Miers nomination

The White House tried yesterday to patch a growing fissure in the Republican Party over Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers by pointing to her conservative religious beliefs. “Part of Harriet Miers’s life is her religion,” President Bush said.

Bush defended his nomination, saying Miers was highly qualified, a trailblazer in the law in Texas and someone who would strictly interpret the Constitution – something his conservative supporters want evidence to support.



Contention of police brutality questioned

A police union official and a lawyer for officers accused in the beating of a retired teacher yesterday sharply disputed the man’s contention he was brutalized during his arrest, which was captured on video.

Attorney Frank DeSalvo said the video shows a truncated version of the Saturday night arrest and he disputed details the video appears to have captured, including whether the 64-year-old suspect was punched in the face.


– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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