Iraq’s parliament has given negotiators an extra seven days to complete a draft constitution after weeks of intensive talks failed to bridge sectarian and ethnic rifts. The vote came minutes before a midnight deadline would have forced the dissolution of parliament under a US-backed interim law. Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders now have another week to agree the extent regions can have autonomy from Baghdad and how they share oil and resources.
Some groups are worried that Kurds in the north may plan to push for outright secession from Iraq, and that Shias in the south may demand the same for them. US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, put a brave face on the delay. “We are witnessing democracy at work in Iraq. 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 towards elections for a permanent government at the end of the year”
However the delay is a setback to hopes in Washington and Baghdad that an agreement would sap support for the Sunni Arab insurgency.