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The Thick of It
BBC America



Saddest Ghost Lamp

Monday, August 15, 2005

Iraqis Delay Meeting to Submit Charter as Printer Difficulties Continue

By DEXTER FILKINS

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 15 - Iraqi leaders postponed by several hours today a special session to submit a draft constitution to the National Assembly, giving themselves more time to work on a document that has been plagued by what its drafters have described as “a totally whacked out printer.”

While they delayed the special session of the National Assembly about four hours, they expected to submit the document later tonight, according to Iraqi leaders involved in the process. However, it is still unclear whether that will give the assembly time to debate it or vote on it by the end of today.

“We finished it last night,” said one negotiator who declined to be named. “But the printer just won’t work. And then Ahmed took it on a disk over toe Kinko’s to print it there, but when he got there, the file was missing! It’s been a total disaster, but we’ll have it tonight, I promise.”

National Assembly member Mowaffak al-Rubaie said today that he has been eagerly awaiting the draft constitution to see whether a political compromise can be reached on difficult issues like federalism and the role of Islam.

“They called me last night to tell me that they were having trouble with the printer,” al-Rubaie said. “I told them they could just e-mail the document to me directly. About 10 minutes later, they sent me an e-mail saying, “The draft constitution is attached,” but there was no attachment. I guess they just forgot.”

The National Assembly had been scheduled to convene at 6 p.m. to consider the draft. Members were advised that the new starting time was 8 p.m., and then it was delayed again until 10 p.m. If the deadline is not met nor the interim constitution successfully amended, the law appears to require dissolving the National Assembly and holding new elections. Shiite and Kurdish leaders said late Sunday that they were discussing that possibility, but said that they hoped to avoid it.

"That is the worst option, and we want to avoid it at all costs," said Ali al-Dabbagh, one of the Shiite leaders charged with writing the new constitution.