ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
A breakthrough today in Iraqi politics. Negotiators have reached an agreement to include more Sunni Arabs on a committee to draft the country's historic Constitution. The compromise came on a day of sporadic but deadly violence. An Iraqi judge, six US servicemen and at least eight Iraqi policemen were killed in separate attacks. The compromise today between Iraq's Shiite-led government and Sunni politicians ends a long, political deadlock. NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Baghdad.
DEBORAH AMOS reporting:
Under pressure from the United States and the European Union, Iraqi negotiators finally reached a compromise on the number of delegates to Iraq's Constitutional Commission. Fifteen Sunni Arabs will join the 55-member group. Another 10 Sunnis will take part as observers. Membership on the commission became a sectarian wrestling match, a way to define how Iraq's Sunni Arabs, a community which mainly boycotted the parliamentary elections in January, would take part in the political process.
Saleh Mutlak, head of a Sunni political group who took part in the negotiations, said he will have to sell the deal to the Sunni community.
Mr. SALEH MUTLAK (Sunni Negotiator): I think the majority of the Sunnis will be hesitant to accept it, but we politicians, we think that we are in a position where either we have to play some role or we'll play nothing.
AMOS: For weeks, it's been a numbers game. Sunni politicians demanded 25 seats on the committee. Iraq's majority Shiite politicians said only 15. Almost everyone involved in the negotiations agreed it was not about the number of seats, but about symbols of power. The drafting commission makes decisions by consensus, says Hussain Shahristani, the deputy parliament speaker.
Mr. HUSSAIN SHAHRISTANI (Deputy Parliament Speaker): We are not going to vote anything in the Constitutional Commission because that commission is not an elected body and the numbers are not really important.
AMOS: But getting the Sunni politicians on board was important, says Shahristani. The compromise today, a sign that Sunni political leaders are ready to take a role.
Mr. SHAHRISTANI: This train has taken off; it's going to stop at every station on the way. And whoever is ready to ride shall be riding as an equal passenger. We have no first-class or second-class passengers on the train. But we are not going to stop the process.
AMOS: The agreement moves the process forward another step. The commission has an August 15 deadline to finish a draft of the Constitution. Iraqis are supposed to vote on the document in October; a full national election is to follow in December. Sunni negotiator Saleh Mutlak said he accepted the compromise to ensure the government sticks to the timetable. He looks forward to the next elections when he says the Sunni community will take part.
Mr. MUTLAK: People are losing hope in this country. And when they lose hope, they become extremists. We want a government which gives them hope and they will be treated as equal.
AMOS: The compromise today show signs there can be political unity between Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis, but does little to address the deepening sectarian divide, and the violence in the country continued. The US military reported five Marines were killed by a roadside bomb in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of Baghdad. An American sailor was also killed in Ramadi by small-arms fire.
In the capital, at least six Iraqi policemen died and 25 were wounded in a bombing on the notorious stretch of highway that connects the city to the airport. Deborah Amos, NPR News, Baghdad.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.