The U.S. ambassador suggested Tuesday there may be further changes to the draft constitution in order to win Sunni Arab approval, saying he believed a "final, final draft" had not yet been presented.
Meanwhile, U.S. F-16s launched airstrikes near the Syrian border, destroying three houses and killing a "known terrorist," the U.S. military said. Iraqi authorities said fighting had broken out in the area between a tribe that supports foreign fighters and another that backs the government.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad spoke two days after Shiite and Kurdish negotiators bypassed Sunni Arab negotiators and finished the draft, despite Sunni objections to federalism, references to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and the country's identification as an Islamic but not Arab state.
"I believe that a final, final draft has not yet been, or the edits have not been, presented yet, so that is something that Iraqis will have to talk to each other and decide for themselves," Khalilzad told reporters.
The law says the version signed off on by parliament Sunday cannot be amended. But Khalilzad said the door could be open for changes declared as "edits" to the approved text. There was no official comment from the Shiite parliamentary leadership whether it shared that opinion.
However, influential Shiite lawmaker Khaled al-Attiyah, a member of the constitution drafting committee insisted that "no changes are allowed to be made to the constitution" except for "minor edits for the language," reports the AP.
According to Guardian, Khalilzad spoke alongside prominent Sunni leader Adnan al-Dulaimi, who urged Sunnis to reject the constitution in the Oct. 15 referendum as it stands. He also denounced the Shiite-led Interior Ministry for allegedly murdering Sunnis.
It was unclear if negotiations among the factions were actually under way. But the presence of Khalilzad with a respected Sunni figure was a clear sign the Bush administration has not given up on its campaign to win Sunni endorsement before the referendum.
“With regards to the constitution, as I said before, if Iraqis among themselves, in the assembly and those from outside, decide to make some adjustments compared to the draft that was presented three four days ago, it's entirely up to them,” Khalilzad said.