BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Sunni Arabs signaled readiness Saturday to end their boycott of the commission drafting Iraq’s constitution while the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad began his new job calling for broad participation in the process as a key deadline loomed.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the former American ambassador to Afghanistan, said another priority will be improving U.S. reconstruction aid, now widely viewed as lagging and leaving Iraqis demoralized.

“My approach will be to under-promise and over-deliver,” Khalilzad said Saturday as he took up his new duties.

In a strange twist, al-Qaida in Iraq posted a videotape showing a reportedly slain Egyptian diplomat discussing foreign access to tourist areas near Sharm el-Sheik in what appeared to be an attempt at justifying Saturday’s deadly attacks in the Red Sea resort.

“If you seek evidence of how the Jews are desecrating the land of the Muslims, contemplate the words of the Egyptian ambassador about Jewish access and desecration of the land of Israel,” said a written statement accompanying the video.

Iraq’s most feared terror group also claimed responsibility for abducting two Algerian diplomats in Baghdad.

Iraqi police, meanwhile, announced the capture and purported confession of a suspected mastermind of the July 16 bombing in Musayyib that killed nearly 100 people in one of the deadliest attacks since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003.

Work on the draft charter stalled after 12 remaining Sunni members announced a walkout following the Tuesday assassination of colleagues Mijbil Issa and Dhamim Hussein al-Obeidi.

The committee is working against an Aug. 15 deadline for completing the charter – considered a key step in the establishment of a broad-based, constitutional government – and the Sunni walkout raised doubts whether the document could be finished on time.

On Saturday, however, Sunni committee member Saleh al-Mutlaq said he and his colleagues had nearly reached agreement on most of the demands set by the influential minority – including an international investigation into the killings, better security and a greater role in deliberations.

“We have reached an agreement on most of the points, except for the international investigation,” al-Mutlaq said. “We will try to find a formula to solve this problem and return to participating in the committee.”

Earlier Saturday, the drafting committee decided to postpone discussions on key disputed issues until the Sunni Arab members ended their boycott. Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the committee, identified those issues as federalism, self-determination, dual nationality and Iraq’s national identity.

The claim of responsibility for Thursday’s abduction of Algeria’s top envoy to Iraq, Ali Belaroussi, and fellow diplomat Azzedine Belkadi was made in an Internet statement. Its authenticity could not be verified.

The two diplomats were seized gunpoint in the upscale Mansour district of western Baghdad as part of an apparent campaign to undermine support for the Iraqi government among Arab and Muslim nations.

The terror group had also claimed responsibility for attacks on three other diplomats from Islamic countries, including Egyptian envoy Ihab al-Sherif, who was seized July 2.

Three days after al-Sherif was kidnapped, gunmen also attacked envoys from Pakistan and Bahrain. The Pakistani escaped unharmed while the Bahraini envoy was slightly wounded.

Al-Qaida in Iraq later claimed al-Sherif had been killed but offered no evidence and his body has not been found. It warned Muslim nations against deepening its ties to Baghdad.

In the latest video, al-Sherif answers questions about the legal status of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, which was returned by Israel in 1982, including the description of an area that can be accessed by Israelis and foreigners without a visa.

There was no indicaton when the video was made, but al-Sherif was wearing the same shirt he wore in a video released on the Web on July 7.

A statement posted with the video said that while the blood of Muslims is spilled in Iraq and Palestine, “the enemies of God are having fun and wandering the land of the Muslims.”

“In Egypt, Jews are desecrating the Sinai,” the statement added.

It was unclear whether the release of the tape on the same day as the Sharm el-Sheik attacks indicated a link between the perpetrators and the kidnappers of al-Sherif.

The attacks on Muslim envoys have occurred as Iraq’s new government appears to be making progress on the political front, including steps toward a new constitution. U.S. and Iraqi officials hope such progress will undermine the Sunni Arab-led insurgency and restore stability.

Khalilzad, who replaced John Negroponte, now national intelligence director, met Saturday with President Jalal Talabani, promising continued U.S. support to help Iraq’s fledgling democracy.

“It is vital that all Iraqis participate in the constitutional process,” Khalilzad said. “Iraq can only succeed if all Iraqis can see themselves in the picture.”

In other developments:

-An Iraqi man held on suspicion of insurgent activity has died at a U.S. aid station south of Baghdad after being found unconscious in his cell, the U.S. military said Saturday.

-Insurgents attacks Saturday against Iraqi police and civilians killed at least six people, including three Fallujah police officers.


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