BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi leaders rushing to finish a constitution Saturday reported tentative agreements on distribution of oil wealth and other issues, but there was no deal on the main obstacle: federalism.
President Jalal Talabani (search) predicted the constitution would be submitted to the National Assembly on Sunday — one day before the deadline for parliamentary approval.
But some committee members said serious divisions remained among the Shiite Muslim, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders, particularly on the question of whether Iraq should be transformed into a federated system of government. Sunnis fear such a move could lead to the breakup of the country.
Talabani acknowledged negotiations continued.
"The meetings are still going on and we have gone forward," he told reporters Saturday. "There is a meeting today and another meeting tomorrow and, God willing, we will finish the job tomorrow."
Talabani said negotiators were concentrating on the question of a federated state comprising Shiite Muslim areas of central and southern Iraq, as well as the role of Islam in laws.
Earlier, committee members said the remaining stumbling blocks were federalism, the role of Shiite clergy, dual nationality and a description of Saddam Hussein's Baath party (search). Even the formal name of the country kept going through last minute modifications.
U.S. officials hope adoption of a constitution and expansion of democracy will deflate support for the insurgency gripping Iraq.
Bombings and ambushes killed at least 10 Iraqis and wounded more than a dozen wounded Saturday. A roadside bomb also set a U.S. armored troop carrier on fire in Baghdad's Sadr City (search) district, but U.S. officials had no casualty report. Three civilians were wounded, police said.
In southern Baghdad, a suicide car bomber attacked a U.S. patrol that had stopped to defuse a roadside bomb, said Sgt. 1st Class David Abrams, a military spokesman. Two U.S. soldiers suffered non-life threatening wounds, and Iraqi police said one civilian was killed and two others wounded in the blast.
Sunni, Kurdish and Shiite political leaders have been negotiating for days in an attempt to deliver a draft constitution to the parliament before the deadline.
Although Sunnis agreed to continuing self-rule for the Kurdish region in the north, they have opposed full federalism for Iraq, fearing that could lead to the breakup of the country, which was established after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I.
Talabani, speaking to reporters after meeting with Sunni religious leader Adnan al-Dulaimi (search), said none of the points of disagreement would be postponed. "There is an agreement to draft a constitution unanimously among all groups," he said.
He said a few points were still being debated. "We have reached agreements on many points but I am not authorized to announce them because we want to make the declaration all together," the president said.
Before Talabani spoke, a Sunni Arab member of the constitution committee, Saleh al-Mutlaq, said negotiators reached a preliminary agreement three days ago that distribution of oil revenues would be shared by the central and regional governments.
Al-Mutlaq did not elaborate. But a Shiite member, Nadim al-Jaberi, said leaders agreed regional governments in oil-producing areas would keep 5 percent of the revenue and the rest would go to the central government for distribution to other areas based on their population.
Negotiations were thrown into a tailspin Thursday when the leader of the biggest Shiite party, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, called for a Shiite autonomous government in central and southern Iraq, including the southern oil fields. That enraged Sunni Arab delegates.
Following al-Hakim's call, Sunni clerics on Friday urged their followers to register and vote in the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum — but to vote against the charter if it contains federalism.
"We, in this country, don't want federalism because we are a unified nation in this country and we feel that Iraq with all it's elements is for all," Sheik Mahmoud al-Sumaidaie, of the influential Association of Muslim Scholars, told worshippers at Baghdad's Umm al-Qura mosque.
Sunnis appear to be sending a warning that they can bring down the constitution in the referendum. According to the country's interim charter, the constitution will be void if it is rejected by two-thirds of voters in three provinces. Sunnis are a majority in four.
With the Shiites and Kurds both supporting federalism, the two groups reached a number of other deals, which needed to be sold to the Sunnis if unanimity is to be achieved.
Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish legislator, said late Friday that Shiites and Kurds agreed Islam be the state religion.
He also said they agreed on the country's name as the Iraqi Federal Republic. But a Shiite negotiator, Saad Jawad Kandil, said it would be The Iraqi Republic — a compromise between Kurds who opposed "Islamic" in the name and Shiites who opposed "Federal."
In other violence Saturday:
— Four civilians died when a roadside bomb exploded near Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, police Capt. Laith Mohammed said. Two Iraqi police officers also were shot to death in Samarra.
— Police Maj. Ahmed Kamil was killed in an ambush in western Baghdad, police said. One Iraqi soldier was shot dead in the Dora district of south Baghdad, police said.
— An unidentified man was found dead in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood. His hands were cuffed and he had been shot in the head and legs, police said.