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Iraqi parliament resumes, focuses on election bill





The 275-member legislature failed last month to approve a law providing for provincial elections this fall after Kurds objected to a power-sharing arrangement for the oil-rich area around Kirkuk, which they want to incorporate into their self-ruled region in the north.

U.N. and Iraqi election officials warn the balloting cannot be held this year unless parliament approves the measure quickly after it reconvenes Tuesday.
But weeks of private meetings and contacts among Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers have failed to produce any breakthrough on the issue, and it was unclear whether the bill would win speedy approval.

U.S. and Iraqi officials believe new elections in Iraq’s 18 provinces are an essential step to building a long-term peace among the country’s rival religious and ethnic communities. Voters will choose provincial councils, which wield considerable power at the local level.

Many Sunnis and some Shiites boycotted the last provincial election, in January 2005, enabling Shiite religious parties and the Kurds to win a disproportionate share of power at the expense of the Sunnis.

However, deputy parliament speaker Khalid al-Attiyah expressed doubt that the assembly would be able to approve the election bill quickly.

“I am frustrated with the performance of parliament,” al-Attiyah, a Shiite, told The Associated Press on Sunday. “There are many laws that should have been passed, but parliament failed to do so. The election bill is still a problem, and we are pressed for time.”

He said if the legislature can’t enact a new law, the current provincial administrations will be “illegitimate” and “this will lead us into a new political crisis.”

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