Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Iraq presidential council rejects plan


Iraq's presidential council has rejected a plan for new provincial elections and sent the bill back to parliament for reworking, a major setback to US-backed efforts to promote national reconciliation.

The ruling came on Wednesday despite a reported last-minute telephone call by US Vice President Dick Cheney to the main holdout on the three-member panel, which has to sign off on laws passed by the legislature.

The main sticking point in Wednesday's decision appeared to be caused by internal Shiite divisions. The main objection focused on whether local officials or the central government currently led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will have the right to fire provincial governors.

"There are some items in this law that contradict the constitution, such as the governor and how to sack him," said Nasser al-Ani, a Sunni lawmaker and presidential council spokesman. "There is an objection and it is constitutional. The presidential council has the right to object."

He didn't say who objected.

But Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi later said it was his Shiite counterpart, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

"There were some objections from my colleague Adel Abdul-Mahdi on the provincial law, thus the presidency returned it to the parliament for reviewing," al-Hashemi told the Al-Hurra TV station.

Kurds supported Abdul-Mahdi's objection, according to lawmakers who attended the council meeting where the elections law was discussed. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The three-member panel is led by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, though it was unclear whether he signed off on the measure.

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