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Iraq Transition

Deadline near for Iraq constitution

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz gets visit from family

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The role of Islam and the relationship between Iraq's central and regional governments remain the major roadblocks in completing a draft constitution, sources told CNN on Saturday.

With two days to go before the Monday deadline, questions remain on what kind of compromise can be reached -- and at what cost -- by Kurds, Shiite Arabs and Sunni Arabs, the three main groups.

The August 22 deadline is an extension of the original deadline of August 15.

The role of religion has revolved around whether Islam will be termed "a" main source or "the" main source of legislation.

Washington, which has shepherded the process, has made it clear that it would like to see Islam termed "a" main source. But if there is compromise with other language espousing the principles of democracy, U.S. representatives say they are willing to agree that religion be "the" main source.

Whether the Kurds, who are under pressure to make the new deadline, and other secularists would agree to such a compromise is uncertain.

Forming the proposed federalist government in Iraq will require balancing the role of the federal government and those of the 18 provinces and the tribal regions.

The Kurds want to maintain their long-held autonomy in three northern provinces. But they are shying away from the idea of self-determination, a term that implies independence.

Some Shiites, particularly the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, have come out for an autonomous region in the Shiite-dominated south.

Sunni Arabs, a minority that was in a position of control in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, oppose federalism. Sunnis are concerned they would lose the economic clout that came with control of the oil in the south and the north.

Sunni Arabs and other Shiites, particularly those in the ruling government, oppose strong decentralization, and want a unified Iraq.

Iraq's transitional law calls for a referendum on the constitution no later than October 15.

Tariq Aziz's family visits

The family of former Hussein regime official Tariq Aziz visited him in custody Saturday.

According to his attorney, Aziz's meeting with his wife, Violet, his daughters Zaynab and Saja, and his sister Amal and her son lasted about 30 minutes. He was allowed to receive the books and other items his family brought.

"It was a nice meeting, and the family was relieved after seeing him," attorney Badie Aref said. Aref also said that the family would be able to visit Aziz more in the coming months,

Although Aziz and other senior aides are in the legal custody of Iraq, they are under U.S. guard.

Aziz was perhaps the Iraqi official most recognized by Westerners, with his white hair, glasses and articulate statements in fluent English. The former Iraqi deputy prime minister surrendered on April 25, 2003 after the fall of Baghdad. He was No. 25 on the U.S. list of most-wanted Iraqis.

Since his detention Aziz has been writing letters to his family and constantly putting in requests to see them.

An Iraqi special tribunal was set up last year to hear the cases against Aziz, Saddam Hussein and other officials from his regime.

The detainees face preliminary charges of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.

Other developments

  • A roadside bomb Saturday killed a soldier with the 42nd Military Police Brigade on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. A statement said his vehicle was struck by a homemade bomb and that he died of his wounds at the 86th Combat Support Hospital. The casualty brings the number of U.S. troop deaths in the war to 1,862.
  • U.S. military personnel in Baghdad on Saturday shot and wounded the supervisor of the Iraqi Interior Ministry's border control, according to a police source in the capital. Maj. Gen. Ali Hamdi Tahi al-Moussawi is being treated for a stomach wound at Ibn Sina Hospital, in the Green Zone district, where American officials are headquartered. The police source speculated that al-Moussawi may have been shot because his armed guards were mistaken for insurgents.
  • Two insurgents were killed and seven police officers were wounded Saturday in fighting between coalition forces and insurgents in the northern city of Mosul, the military said. Authorities said at least two people were arrested, including a "wanted" Jordanian insurgent. He was carrying a video showing "execution of local nationals," a sniper rifle and medical supplies.
  • CNN's Aneesh Raman and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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