BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's parliament agreed to a seven-day extension for leaders to complete a draft constitution, after politicians failed to meet a midnight Monday deadline for agreement on the charter.
Parliament adjourned after voting to extend the deadline until Aug. 22, acting on a request from Kurdish leaders for more time.
Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish framers of the charter had reached a tentative deal late Monday, resolving issues ranging from oil revenues to the country's name but putting off decision on the most contentious questions - including federalism, women's rights, the role of Islam and possible Kurdish autonomy.
Efforts to meet the Aug. 15 deadline showed how determined Iraqis are to maintain political momentum under intense U.S. pressure, but their failure to compromise was a clear sign that their sharp political divisions are far from over.
"We should not be hasty regarding the issues and the constitution should not be born crippled," President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said after the vote. "We are keen to have an early constitution, but the constitution should be completed in all of its items in a proper manner that appeals to all components of the Iraqi people so that the whole people interact with the whole constitution."
It was unclear if negotiators would reopen issues already resolved or focus only on those yet undecided.
Meeting the Monday deadline would have been a victory for the Bush administration, which had made clear in recent weeks that it was pushing for a constitution by then - even if some issues were left undecided.
Television cameras were at the ready as parliament convened late Monday to consider any final, undecided constitutional issues and debate the entire charter. In a sign of Washington's close involvement in the process, the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, was in the hall as parliament gathered. He wore a broad grin, apparently anticipating a vote on the charter.
MMoments before, however, Kurdish minister Barhem Saleh aid on Al-Arabiyah TV that Iraqis could not reach a complete agreement on the constitution and would seek a 7-10 day extension for negotiations to continue.
"If we don't reach an agreement," he said, "then the National Assembly will be dissolved, and we will call for general elections for a new National Assembly."
If agreement on a constitution is reached, however, Iraqis will vote around Oct. 15 to accept or reject the charter, leading to more elections in December for the country's first new government under the new constitution.
One key sticking point was Kurdish demands for the right of self-determination.
Kurds had suggested language giving them eight years within a unified Iraq and after that the right to secede. Shiites told them they should decide now whether they want to stay within Iraq. Sunnis rejected even the broad, general concept of federalism codified in the constitution at this time.
"I think that the seven days will be enough to agree on all the details regarding the federalism," Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, a Shiite and national security adviser told Al-Arabiya, "Democracy cannot be achieved in Iraq unless federalism is implemented, because Iraq has many ethnicities."
The issue of women's rights was just as complicated and undecided, falling under Shiite demands that Islam be the main source of legislation. That could affect the civil code, because Islamic law, or sharia, women might not receive the same share of inheritance and cannot initiate divorce.
In contrast, officials had said that agreements were reached on issues such as distribution of the country's oil revenues, the country's name and the issue of whether Iraqis could hold dual citizenship.
But even those issues remained unclear late Monday. For example, officials have said they were deciding on either the Republic of Iraq or Federal Republic of Iraq, and had ruled out the idea of putting any Islamic reference in the country's name.