Forty die as Iraqi factions are given another day to agree deal

The speaker of the fledgling Iraqi parliament has announced a 24-hour extension to talks over the country's new constitution on a day of renewed sectarian infighting that left at least 40 people dead.

Hajim al-Hassani declared the second extension to negotiations shortly after the midnight deadline. "We found that time was late and we saw that the matters will need another day in order to reach results that please everyone, " he said.

The chaos inside the new legislature continued against the background of another surge in violence.

The latest bloodshed ­ including the deaths of 13 policemen and an American ­ came after dozens of masked gunmen occupied parts of Baghdad. President Jalal Talabani escaped an assassination attempt in which eight of his bodyguards were killed and 15 injured. In further evidence of sectarian unrest, the bodies of 36 men, thought to be Kurds, were found in a dry river bed near the Iranian border at Badrah. They had been "executed" with shots to the head.

Today's talks are an attempt to give the Shias time to respond to proposals tabled last night, Mr Hassani said.

Adding a fresh dimension to the crisis over the constitution, fighting also broke out between Shia groups divided over the issue. Nine people were killed.

Sunni officials are vehemently opposed to the federalism continued within the draft document, claiming it is a pretext for Shias and Kurds to carve up the oil-rich north and south of the country between them.

However, the radical Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr and his Mehdi Army, whose powerbase is in the relatively resource-poor central provinces, are also opposed to federalism, and yesterday they clashed with pro-constitution Shias of the Badr group, led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. A series of gun battles was waged across the Shia heartland in southern and eastern Iraq.

Earlier yesterday, confusion surrounded the political process, with conflicting accounts from officials about the draft constitution. At one stage, a government spokesman, Laith Kubba, declared that changes had been agreed on the documents and it would be put to the vote in the National Assembly immediately. "By the end of the day we will have a final version of the draft. It will be approved. The National Assembly will then rubber-stamp it," he said.

However Bishro Ibrahim, a spokesman for the National Assembly, announced that no agreements had been reached.

While negotiations continued last night, one mooted scenario was for the draft ­ with some amendments but still containing the federalism reference ­ to be presented before the Assembly, but with the voting on its adoption deferred until Sunday.

The Shias and Kurds have an in-built majority in the National Assembly and will have little difficulty in driving through a vote. The constitution will then be the subject of a referendum in which it can be blocked if a two-thirds "no" vote is cast in at least three of Iraq's 18 provinces.

The US President, George Bush, has announced the dispatch of extra troops to Iraq in anticipation of an upsurge of violence at the time of the referendum. Major-General Rick Lynch of the US Army said that coalition forces were ready to meet the situation. However, the attack on Baghdad appeared to have caught US and Iraqi government forces by surprise.

Dozens of masked gunmen took over the Khadra and Jamaa districts and killed alleged collaborators. Police who arrived in the area were then the targets of a succession of car bombs.

Maj-Gen Lynch said the insurgents appeared to "have the ability to pick the time and place of their choosing ... They have used swarm tactics and conducted a complex attack against civilians and Iraqi police officers."

A senior Iraqi police officer said: "They [the insurgents] are getting more and more daring. We weren't expecting this attack and we had to fight very hard. But we succeeded at the end."

Sticking points

* ARTICLE 1: "The Republic of Iraq is an independent, sovereign nation, and the system of rule in it is a democratic, federal, representative (parliamentary) republic." It is this article which is now the key sticking point, with the Sunnis claiming that federalism is a pretext for the Shias and Kurds to carve up the country's oil-rich northern and southern regions between them.

* ARTICLE 2: "Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation... No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam." Secular and women's groups have claimed that this may result in sharia law and restrictions on female rights. But the wording is expected to last into the final version.

* ARTICLE 3: Iraq "is part of the Islamic world and its Arab people are part of the Arab nation". Critics say the country should be called, more unequivocally, an "Arab nation". This wording is also likely to survive despite Sunni objections.

* ARTICLE 4: "Arabic and Kurdish are the two official languages for Iraq. Iraqis are guaranteed the right to educate their children in their mother tongues, such as Turkomen or Assyrian." This is regarded as a vital guarantee for minorities against domination by the Arab majority.

* ARTICLE 16: "Equal opportunity is a right guaranteed to all Iraqis, and the state shall take the the necessary steps to achieve this."

* ARTICLE 20: "Citizens, male and female, have the right to participate in public matters and enjoy political rights, including the right to run as candidates."

* ARTICLE 151: "A proportion of no less than 25 per cent of seats in the council of representatives is specified for participation of women."

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape