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
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.