Monday, December 07, 2009

US role in Iraq election law "monumental"

'Iraq's fractious Parliament agreed to a compromise paving the way for legislative elections early next year after an 11th-hour phone call from President Obama to a top Kurdish leader removed remaining objections to a deal.

Minutes before a midnight deadline to approve the amended law, lawmakers who had been arguing in conference rooms and around cafeteria tables voted in the Parliament chamber to approve an election law placed in jeopardy when it was vetoed by Iraq's Sunni vice president three weeks ago.

The uncertainty over whether it would pass sent US and UN diplomats into a tailspin, with US Ambassador Christopher Hill rushing back from Washington and the United Nations special representative Ad Melkert trying to bridge Sunni and Kurdish objections.

"The US role was monumental. They brought everyone together," says Krikor Derhegopian, an advisor to Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, whose veto sparked the latest crisis. He says the elections could likely be held on Feb. 27, the latest date suggested by UN officials.

Obama's call and the US diplomacy was a stark reminder that as the US withdraws militarily from iraq, it remains engaged in almost every part of the political process.'

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