Sunnis offered bigger role in Iraq

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The Independent Online

Sunni Muslims are to be given up to 25 seats on the committee that will draft Iraq's new constitution.

The announcement by Iraq's President, Jalal Talabani, was made during a visit to Baghdad by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary. Sunni Arabs had threatened to pull out of the political process if they were not given a bigger say on the committee. Mr Talabani said: "We have decided to add about 20 to 25 members from Sunnis in the committee, which will draft the constitution with full rights like other members who were elected by the parliament. This will be done very soon and we are discussing to finalise the making of this decision."

Two Sunni Arabs currently sit on the 55-member parliamentary committee. The Shia-led government had offered 13 extra places for Sunni Arabs from outside the parliament, but without voting rights.

The constitution must be drafted by mid-August and approved in a referendum. Sunni approval is needed for the charter to take effect and elections to be held in December.

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