BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's parliament signed off on revisions to the country's draft constitution Sunday as a leading lawmaker declared that acceptance of the new charter was a matter for the people, not the parliament.
Hussain al-Shahristani (search), deputy National Assembly speaker, said the new text was given to the United Nations, which will print 5 million copies and distribute them to Iraqis before the Oct. 15 national referendum on the new basic law.
The original draft was not voted on by parliament, and al-Shahristani did not call for legislative approval of the amendments.
"The vote on this ... is the right of the people, not their representatives," he said.
The changes to the document included an apparent bow to demands from the Arab League (search) that the charter describe Iraq as a founding member of the pan-Arab organization and affirm that Iraq is "committed to its charter."
Other changes included holding the federal government responsible for managing water resources and the creation of two deputy prime minister positions for the Cabinet.
Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, which held sway during the rule of Saddam Hussein (search), has complained that the constitution favors the Shiite Muslim majority and Kurds, who dominated the committee that wrote the document.
Sunni Arabs are the core of the country's violent insurgency, and even the more moderate members of that community sect have voiced fundamental dissatisfaction and vowed to defeat the charter in the referendum.
A Shiite lawmaker said it had become pointless to continue attempts at compromise.
"When we penned the changes, we did not give consideration to the opposition by these groups," Jawad al-Maliki told The Associated Press. "These people are not going to succeed in bringing down the constitution."
Sunnis are deeply opposed to portions of the draft that allow for federalism and to its reference to Iraq as a Muslim but not an Arab country.
The Sunnis say federalism is only a prelude to the breakup of a country that historically has been held together by a strong central government.