KUWAIT - Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric may issue a
religious edict declaring the June U.S. transfer of power to
Iraqis illegal if an interim constitution article is not
amended, a close aide said in remarks published on Saturday.
"If article 61 of the interim constitution is not changed,
Imam (Ayatollah Ali) al-Sistani may issue a fatwa declaring
illegitimate all those (Iraqis) to whom power is transferred in
June," said Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Mohri.
A GRAVE OBSTACLE TO US PLANS?
Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric has urged the United Nations not to endorse the country's interim constitution, his office said on March 22, 2004, raising a potentially grave obstacle to U.S. plans to hand power to Iraqis on July 1. Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani told senior U.N. official Lakhdar Brahimi in a letter that unless the United Nations rejects the constitution, he would boycott a U.N. team expected to visit Iraq soon to advise on forming an interim government. Sistani is seen in this undated file photo. (Reuters)
Sistani "may also order the Iraqi people to protest or
carry out major popular demonstrations and sit-ins in all Iraqi
cities," added Mohri.
The Kuwait-based aide to Sistani did not elaborate on the
changes to article 61 wanted by Sistani.
Sistani had complained that veto guarantees enshrined in
the constitution could constrain the power of the Shi'ites. He
also says a proposed three-person presidential council,
comprised of a Shi'ite, a Sunni and a Kurd, is a recipe for
religious and ethnic squabbling. Mohri's comments, made at
Friday prayers in Kuwait, were carried by Kuwait newspapers on
The interim constitution and how to transfer power from
U.S. occupation forces to a sovereign Iraqi government has been
a subject of intense debate among Shi'ites, who comprise Iraq's
largest ethnic group and were oppressed for decades under
ousted former President Saddam Hussein's ruling Sunni minority.
The U.S.-appointed Governing Council signed the interim
constitution at the start of March despite several delays and
over the objections of Sistani. Washington has been pushing for
progress on the constitution and the make-up of a new
government in order to meet a June 30 deadline to hand over
Mohri also urged the United Nations and the U.S.-run
Coalition Provisional Authority running Iraq not to disagree
with Sistani, "or else there will be pandemonium in Iraq, and
protests and chaos will be widespread."
Earlier this month, Sistani in a letter urged the United
Nations not to endorse the interim constitution, raising a
potentially grave obstacle to U.S. plans to hand power to
"Imam Sistani has decided not to meet with United Nations
envoy Lakhdar Brahimi until after declaring illegitimate the
interim Iraqi constitution which divides Iraq," Mohri said.
© Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd