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Iraq clears way for parliamentary elections

Iraqi lawmakers have approved plans to hold parliament elections early next year that are seen as an important step toward political reconciliation and easing the withdrawal of US troops.

world Updated: Dec 07, 2009 07:10 IST

Iraqi lawmakers have approved plans to hold parliament elections early next year that are seen as an important step toward political reconciliation and easing the withdrawal of US troops.

The vote -- during an emergency session convened just before a midnight deadline -- followed marathon talks by political leaders to break an impasse over balloting provisions that would satisfy the nation's rival groups.

"I would like to congratulate the Iraqi people for this historical victory," said Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who had held up the elections for weeks with a veto. He also hailed political leaders for compromises that "got Iraq out from the bottleneck and out of a problem."

A failure to pass new elections rules yesterday would have forced Iraqi to revert to those used in its last parliament election in 2005 and likely throw the political process into a tailspin.

Plans for the election had been mired for weeks over al-Hashemi's demands for a greater political voice for minority Sunnis and the distribution of seats in Iraq's expanded 325-seat parliament.

The election is scheduled for January 16, but a delay of a month or more now appears likely. A longer postponement could have complicated the withdrawal timetable for US forces, which are scheduled to end combat missions in August.

The full details of the pact were not immediately clear. But it appeared to resolve objections from al-Hashemi, who vetoed the election law to demand equal voting rights for Iraqis living abroad.

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