World

US officials in Iraq were withholding comment after senior Sunni Muslims said Thursday that their followers would vote "no" Oct. 15 in the referendum on the nation's proposed constitution "no matter what happens." Sunnis oppose the draft charter mainly due to its provision for a federal state that they say would isolate them in a central heartland without oil resources. Sunnis on the drafting committee failed to block the provision, which was sought by their Shiite and Kurdish colleagues. But under the referendum rules a two-thirds "no" vote in any three Sunni-majority provinces would defeat the constitution.

An emergency meeting of foreign ministers from European Union countries was called for Sunday, the eve of negotiations for admitting Turkey to membership in the bloc. The meeting became necessary when the EU ministers failed to agree on a framework for the negotiations, with Austria demanding that it include the option of "privileged partnership" because opinion polls show that a majority of Europeans don't support full membership. Turkey's government rejects anything less than the latter. All 25 EU members must agree on a framework before the negotiations can begin. Even then, they are expected to last at least 10 years.

A third round of negotiations was scheduled for Wednesday between Germany's two top political parties as their leaders edged closer to a "grand coalition" government. Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats said the likelihood of a unity government with Chancelor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats "is much higher" than with any other combination of parties and that there is a "very high probability" of success as she and Schröder continue meeting. Both claim the right to be chancelor after their forces finished just 0.9 percent apart in the Sept. 18 national election.

Urgent discussions on immigration were held Thursday between the prime ministers of Spain and Morocco and an official investigation was ordered after the third attempt this week by hundreds of Africans to force their way through a razor-wire fence that divides their territories. Five people died in the latest effort, and some reports suggested they had been shot by guards. The numbers were the largest and best organized to date, Spanish officials said, in what has become a flood of illegal immigrants desperate for a better life. Spain claims the enclaves of Cueta and Melilla, which are on Moroccan soil.

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