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Blueprints not bombs

Federalism, oil and Islam dominate debate as 70 Iraqis rush to write a constitution

By Tamara Chalabi   August 2005

In February 1919, the India office sent a telegraph to the British administration in Baghdad expressing concerns about a constitution for Iraq. The British objective, said the message, “should be a flexible constitution giving full play to different elements of population and recognising and incorporating local peculiarities and idiosyncrasies.” Today, 70 Iraqis—61 men and nine women—on the constitutional drafting committee in Baghdad are wrestling with some very familiar problems.

Despite the recent surge in suicide bombings, the constitution dominates the Iraqi conversation. Lectures, seminars, television shows and newspaper specials are all busily debating it. One of the main Iraqi television…

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