Rice Calls Iraqi Constitutional Process "Democracy at Work"

Secretary expects Iraqis to complete document within seven days

The negotiations under way on Iraq’s new constitution are an example of “democracy at work,” according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the progress that has been achieved in addressing difficult issues and forging a consensus over the past several months should carry the constitutional process through to completion in the coming days.

Rice addressed journalists August 15 just hours after Iraq’s constitutional committee requested and received, by unanimous approval from the Transitional National Assembly, a seven-day extension on its deadline for completing a draft constitution.

“These people are working very, very hard,” Rice said. “They are working very long hours. But what that says is that they are really committed to putting together a document that they believe in, a document that can be a foundation for a free and democratic Iraq for all Iraqis.”

Rice said the constitutional committee has made substantial progress in addressing all of the outstanding issues and added, "They are very much focused on a course that will bring this to a conclusion at the end of seven days.”

The secretary said that the events of the day demonstrate how Iraqis have taken charge of the political process in their country.

“They decided that they were responsible officials that needed more time to look at the very difficult issues that were in the text, and so they took that time in accordance with a process that was set up,” she said.

From his ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush issued a statement applauding “the heroic efforts of Iraqi negotiators” and expressing his appreciation for “their work to resolve remaining issues through continued negotiation and dialogue.”

“Their efforts are a tribute to democracy and an example that difficult problems can be solved peacefully through debate, negotiation, and compromise," he said.

The members of Iraq’s Transitional National Assembly gave the constitutional drafters until August 22 to finalize the text of the proposed constitution. The document is scheduled to be submitted to the Iraqi citizens for approval in a national referendum October 15, and, if approved, will serve as the basis for a new round of elections December 15.

The transcript of Secretary Rice's remarks

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