Debating the Fate of Iraq's New Constitution

Madeleine Brand speaks with Safwat Rashid, an Iraqi Kurd and a former elections commissioner, about the debate over the language of the draft Iraqi constitution, due Monday at midnight. The panel drawing up the document missed last week's deadline and reportedly have been at odds over the role of Islam and women's rights in a new government.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

With us now also from Baghdad is Safwat Rashid. He's a Kurd and a member of the Iraqi electoral commission, which organized the historic elections back in January.

And, Mr. Rashid, welcome back to DAY TO DAY.

Mr. SAFWAT RASHID (Member of Iraqi Electoral Commission): Thank you.

BRAND: Now after those elections in January, there was great euphoria after the large participation in those elections. Now deep divisions exist between Iraqi Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites. Are you disappointed that in those months, there has been this deep political divide?

Mr. RASHID: Well, as you know, Iraq has multiple ethnic, religious, sectarian groups and they have been living together for hundred of years. I think that it is very normal for each group to demands; for Kurds, for the natural rights, for the religious group.

BRAND: The Kurds preside over the oil-rich northern part of the country, and that has been a source of contention amongst the Sunnis in the south. What are the Kurds willing to give up in exchange for national unity?

Mr. RASHID: Actually, the Kurds have been asking to share in power and also in the wealth of the money. And starting this argument by saying that as a unique or separate ethnic group, they have all the rights of self-determination, that means to create an independent state of their own. But they are waiving that to settle down in a federal state and to share with the other ethnic and religious groups the future of Iraq.

BRAND: So they are waiving their rights, you're saying, to an independent state?

Mr. RASHID: For the time being, yes, they are doing that.

BRAND: Some people are saying that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war. Do you agree?

Mr. RASHID: No, I don't agree. And I think even if they failed to reach an agreement necessarily today on the constitution, and even if the National Assembly to be dissolved, that wouldn't mean necessarily a civil war because they have seen a lot of wars and now they have wisdom enough to give themselves more time for negotiations and to get in turn with each other.

BRAND: Safwat Rashid is a Kurd and a member of the Iraqi electoral commission, which organized last January's democratic elections. He spoke to us from Baghdad.

And, Mr. Rashid, thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. RASHID: Thank you.

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