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Interim Iraqi Constitution will be Signed Monday, says Bremer
Stephanie Ho
VOA, Washington
07 Mar 2004, 18:27 UTC


<b>Paul Bremer</b>
Paul Bremer
The top U.S. official in Iraq says he is optimistic the new interim Iraqi constitution will be signed Monday, after a last-minute disagreement delayed Friday's signing ceremony.

The U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, told Fox News Sunday he has good reason to believe the Iraqi interim constitution will be signed Monday.

"We hope that the signing ceremony will happen tomorrow," said Mr. Bremer. "We have noted a statement by the current president of the governing council that they do intend to sign it tomorrow."

One controversial issue was a clause saying that any three of Iraq's 18 provinces could veto the final constitution, even if a majority of Iraqis approve it. Shi'ites, who make up 60 percent of the country, fear that would give too much power to the Kurds, who control three northern provinces, but make up less than 20 percent of the population.

Mr. Bremer said disagreements over issues like that are "bumps along the road" to democracy.

"Democracy is not just about majority rule," he said. "It is about protecting minority rights. And I think, again, it is pretty extraordinary..., the spectacle of Iraqis all over the country now debating things that we [Americans] debated 200 years ago ourselves - freedom of speech, freedom to demonstrate, freedom of assembly. I think it is a wonderful thing and minority rights are an important protection in democracy. It is not an easy thing to understand. I think that they now have begun to wrestle with that."

At the same time, he stressed that the United States still plans to hand over power to an Iraqi interim government by June 30.

"It is the Iraqis who have been insisting, quite understandably, on ending the occupation," said Mr. Bremer. "It is not nice to be occupied. I might add, as an aside, it is not very nice to be an occupier either. But the Iraqis want their sovereignty back. We think it will help with the political situation and we think it will help with the security situation. So it is in our interest as well. And we will proceed on schedule."

Regarding the suicide bombings last week, Mr. Bremer said they were carried out by what he described as "internationally-trained killers" who entered Iraq from other countries. He said coalition forces are working to persuade Iran and Syria to do more to control their borders with Iraq.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bremer added that a team of U.S. legal experts will be in Baghdad to help Iraqis gather the evidence they need to try Saddam Hussein and other senior Iraqi leaders, in special tribunals.