updated 3/3/2004 1:35:54 PM ET 2004-03-03T18:35:54

A draft constitution drawn up earlier this week by Iraq's leading politicians and the U.S.-led administration will be signed Friday, the current president of the Iraqi Governing Council said.

Council President Mohammed Bahr al-Ulloum said Wednesday that the document will be signed as the last of a three-day period of mourning for Shiite bombing victims comes to an end.

Hundreds of people were killed Tuesday in near simultaneous bombings at Baghdad's Kazimiya shrine and holy sites in Karbala.

The Iraqis had agreed on the draft Monday, after spending two months wrestling with the interim constitution, which will become law of the land for a year or more, until an elected national assembly writes a replacement. It was originally scheduled to be signed on Wednesday.

Bill of rights
The charter has a 13-article bill of rights, including protections for free speech, religious expression, assembly and due process. It enshrines Islam as the state religion, but not the sole basis for law. The Kurdish language becomes an official language alongside Arabic.

“For the next 100 years this day will be mentioned as one of the most important in Iraq’s history,” said council member Samir Shaker Mahmoud. “This will be remembered in the annals of history as a turning point in relations between the state and citizens in this country and in the region.”

The document envisions Iraq as a federalist state along the lines of Canada, Brazil and India, with considerable authority handed to individual regions.

“No one has absolute power,” said Entifadh Qanbar, spokesman for Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi, said Monday. “After what we’ve been through, we’re afraid of that.”

Iraq will be governed by a directly elected national assembly whose members then choose a president, a prime minister and a pair of deputy presidents, Qanbar said.

The president will make decisions on the advice of two vice presidents, and will share power with a prime minister and Cabinet, Qanbar said.

The prime minister will be vested with executive power, but not over the armed forces, which will be commanded by the president. The president will also wield a veto over the national assembly’s resolutions, Qanbar said.

Nationwide elections to select an Iraqi national assembly are supposed to take place before Feb. 1, 2005. Later in 2005, Iraqis are expected to vote on a permanent constitution drawn up by the national assembly.

“I am sure that some principals included in this law will also be in the permanent constitution,” Council member Adnan Pachachi said.

The charter does not say what kind of government will run the country after June 30, when the U.S.-led coalition hands over power. Pachachi said the form of the new administration will be included in an annex to the interim constitution once agreement is reached.

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