Iraq may postpone elections

Iraq politicians were today considering postponing national elections by at least 45 days after only just meeting a last-minute deadline to approve new voting rules.

The elections were initially scheduled for January 16, but officials now suggest late February after months of arguing over a new law brought planning for national balloting to a standstill.

The February 27 date appeared to have the most support from Iraq’s elections commission.

Plans for the election had been stuck for weeks over Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi’s demands for a greater political voice for minority Sunni Arabs and the distribution of seats in Iraq’s expanded 325-seat parliament.

Parliament approved the law late last night during an emergency session convened just before a midnight deadline.

A failure to pass new elections rules would have forced Iraqis to revert to those used in its last parliamentary election in December 2005 and likely throw the political process into chaos.

The White House applauded the vote, which the US hopes will ease the eventual withdrawal of American troops.

But the postponed election could complicate withdrawal timetables for the US military, which is keeping the bulk of its 120,000 troops in place because of a possible rise in violence surrounding the voting.

President Barack Obama has ordered the withdrawal of all combat troops by August 31, 2010, leaving up to 50,000 others in advisory roles. Under an Iraqi-US security agreement they would leave by the end of 2011.

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