Thursday, October 06, 2005

AP: Under U.S. and U.N. pressure, Iraq's Shiite-led parliament Wednesday reversed its last-minute electoral law changes, which would have ensured passage of a new constitution but which the United Nations called unfair. Sunni Arab leaders who had threatened a boycott because of the changes said they were satisfied with the reversal and were now mobilizing to defeat the charter at the polls. But some warned they could still call a boycott to protest major U.S. offensives launched over the past week in western Iraq, the Sunni heartland.

The reversal of the election changes passed by parliament over the weekend was a political victory for U.N. and U.S. officials, boosting chances that Sunnis will see the referendum as fair and participate, thus giving the outcome credibility. Yet that success restored the possibility that Sunnis will manage to veto the constitution, which would prolong Iraq's political instability. The United States in particular is eager to see the passage of the charter, viewed as key to beginning the withdrawal of some U.S. forces. Saleh al-Mutlaq, a top Sunni politician, said the boycott threat over the election law was lifted. "I am sure if there is honesty (in the election process) 95 percent of the Sunni Arabs will vote 'no,' " he said.