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Iraqi Presidency Formally Approves Election Law

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Iraq's president and vice presidents have formally approved a long-awaited provincial elections law, paving the way for the vote to take place by January 31.

The Presidency Council, consisting of President Jalal Talabani and Vice Presidents Tariq al-Hashimi and Adil Abd al-Mahdi, also asked parliament to reinstate guaranteed seats on provincial councils for Christians and other minority sects.

"The chief of staff of the Presidency Council, Nasir al-Ani, announces the unanimous approval of the election law by the members of the council," the presidency said in a statement.

Parliament passed the elections law last month after Talabani vetoed an earlier version because of disagreement over rules for Kirkuk, an oil-rich province disputed by Arabs and Kurds. The new law puts off voting in Kirkuk while allowing it to go ahead elsewhere.

Talabani is a Kurd, al-Hashimi is a Sunni Arab, and al-Mahdi is a Shi'ite Arab, so that any veto power over Iraqi laws is shared between Iraq's three main ethnic and sectarian groups.

The three indicated last week that they would not block the law, despite misgivings over the omission of quotas for the minority sects, known as Article 50, which was stripped from the draft before it was passed in parliament.

Christians have demonstrated in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul to demand the quotas be restored. The Presidency Council statement said Article 50 had now been submitted to parliament to be voted on as a separate bill.