THE parliamentary elections in Iraq were held at the end of January of this year. The government drawn from those elected to a national assembly was finally formed at the beginning of this month; it had taken three months to find the right balance of parties to start on the primary task of this parliament which is the drafting of Iraq's constitution, a task that has to be completed by August 15. In other words the parliament has less time to draft the constitution than it took to form a government. Yesterday the US and European Union announced an international conference in the third week of June to discuss plans for the drafting of Iraq's permanent constitution, the most challenging task facing the democratically-elected national assembly. Some 80 countries will participate in the conference although, curiously, the announcement made no reference to the United Nations which has already been involved in preliminary work on the constitution. So another month will go by before the real work begins on the constitution, leaving probably less than six weeks before the deadline originally set for the work to be completed. Almost certainly, the deadline will have to be extended but even so there will be questions about whether the drafting can be done satisfactorily under any deadline. This constitution will represent the best hope that Iraq's differing people will be able to live peacefully together under a legal framework that gives them all equal civil and religious rights. The long delay in forming a government arose precisely from the difficulty of ensuring appropriate representation of all communities; it hardly seems likely, therefore, that the difficulties is drafting a constitution that affords equal rights to everybody will be any less. The conference announced yesterday will also aim to re-engage the international community in funding for Iraq's reconstruction and in the training of its security forces. In the chaotic conditions currently prevailing in Iraq it will be surprising if many countries will be ready to become involved.