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UN resolution doesn't meet Kurds' demand

Wanted mention of constitution; Sistani opposed

BAGHDAD -- The passage of a UN resolution on Iraq has drawn attention to hints from two main Kurdish parties that they might not participate in the new government if the UN measure failed to endorse an interim constitution, adopted in March, that guarantees Kurds certain rights.

The resolution adopted unanimously yesterday by the UN Security Council makes no mention of the Transitional Administration Law, which will serve as Iraq's temporary constitution after the new interim government takes power on June 30 and until a new constitution is written and approved in a referendum late next year. The country's leading Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, had warned of trouble if the Security Council gave any legitimacy to the interim charter.

The Kurdish demands were contained in a letter Sunday from Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party to the United Nations.

A PUK official, Araz Talabany, said yesterday that the letter asked that reference to the interim constitution be made in the Security Council resolution providing international legitimacy to US plans for transferring power to the Iraqis.

''They said that in the future they might not participate in the government or in the coming elections" planned by Jan. 31 if the new resolution failed to mention the interim resolution, the aide said before the UN vote.

Talabany, the aide, said the interim constitution stipulates guarantees for some Kurdish rights, such as federalism.

''What they are asking for is the least of the rights of the Kurdish people," he said.

The New York Times reported today that a senior US official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity, cautioned against reading the letter as a firm threat to abandon the government, saying he expected Kurds and Shi'ites to ultimately reach an agreement.

A senior UN official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Times that US officials had rejected the Kurdish request because of concerns about offending Iraq's Shi'ite leaders.

In his own letter to the United Nations, Sistani said that any effort to give legitimacy to the interim charter, known as the Transitional Administrative Law, by mentioning it in the Iraq resolution ''runs counter to the will of the Iraqi people."

''This law, which has been written by an unelected council under the occupation and its direct influence, restricts the national [body] due to be elected at the beginning of the new year to draft Iraq's permanent constitution," Sistani said. ''This runs against law and is rejected by the majority of the Iraqi people."

Sistani objected to the interim constitution because it was not drafted by an elected body but was instead approved by the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. He has insisted that the interim charter should not tie the hands of a future elected body that will draft a permanent constitution next year.

The Kurds won a major concession in the interim constitution which states that if a majority of voters in three of Iraq's 18 provinces reject the permanent charter, it will not be approved. Kurds control three provinces.

Shi'ites say that gives a veto to an ethnic community which forms about 15 percent of the population. Shi'ites are believed to make up about 60 percent.

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