Last-minute talks involving U.S. diplomats persuaded one Sunni political party in Iraq to back a new constitution on Tuesday, just four days before a referendum on it, but others stood firm in a bitter sectarian feud.
On a day when suicide car bombers killed more than two dozen Iraqis, an offer by the Shi'ite- and Kurdish-led ruling coalition to discuss amending the charter four months after an election in December was intended to soften Sunni opposition.
"It's a breakthrough to win Sunni endorsement for the constitution," one senior government source said.
He said that under the deal, to be unveiled on Wednesday by President Jalal Talabani and submitted to parliament, a mechanism would be built in to the constitution to provide for a renegotiation of certain elements in the first four months of the new legislature that will be elected on December 15, reports Reuters.
But it is still unclear whether the apparent deal on the constitution would stave off further attacks like the one in Tal Afar.
Residents had begun trickling back into Tal Afar since the sweep, and Iraq's chief electoral officer, Adil Lami, said Tuesday that there are even plans to have a single polling station in the city Saturday. But victims of Tuesday's attack complained that a drawdown of U.S. and Iraqi military forces had allowed insurgents to prey upon the town.
"I was there, and I am sure there weren't any military convoys or Iraqi police or national guard in the market," said Talib Ali, lying in a bed at the general hospital in the city, about 250 miles north of the capital.
"We didn't notice him," Ali, 45, said of the bomber. "He drove so fast in his car. He picked the most crowded area where people were gathered near the food ration store. I don't think those terrorists know the meaning of God and they don't have the least right to claim that they're religious."
Many Iraqis have anticipated a surge of violence in the days approaching the referendum, citing past attacks clustered around key election periods. U.S. and Iraqi officials said such attacks would be designed to dissuade people from participating in the political process.
Some 240 people have died in the past two weeks in insurgent and sectarian attacks, informs LA Times.