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Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor issues SOS to Jack Straw over Iraq

 Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has urged the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, to intervene in the drafting of the Iraqi constitution to remove a clause which could deprive Christians and other minorities of their basic rights as citizens. The Archbishop of Westminster's letter to the Foreign Secretary on Friday was written after church leaders in Iraq sounded the alarm over Article 2(a) in the draft constitution, which was submitted on 25 August. The Article states that "no law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam", in the AP translation. Although Church leaders "do not question that Iraq will be an Islamic state, nor object to Islam being considered one source of legislation among others, they are most alarmed by the phrase" in Article 2(a), Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor wrote to Jack Straw. The Cardinal warned that if the clause remained it could have "devastating consequences" for Iraq's ancient Christian minority, and "fatally undermine" Britain's plans for a stable democracy in the region. The Constitution, he warned, contains "a real threat to religious freedom." The draft will be voted on in a general referendum and ratified by the general assembly on 15 October, but discussions are under way to fine-tune the draft, according to the Associated Press on Friday. The Cardinal has asked Jack Straw "to influence the parties to the Constitution to enshrine specific guarantees which establish the equality of non-Muslims and to remove the above-mentioned clause". Warning of "an exodus of Christians from Iraq", the Cardinal told Jack Straw that "the British objective in establishing a stable democracy in that country would be fatally undermined" if their rights were not protected. Source: Archbishops' House