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    Official: Iraqi Elections Now Set for March 7

    Iraq has changed the date of its general elections for the second time in a day, with officials saying the vote will now take place on Sunday, March 7.

    Iraq has changed the date of its general elections for the second time in a day, with officials saying the vote will now take place on Sunday, March 7.

    The presidential chief-of-staff, Nasser al-Ani, announced the date to reporters Tuesday, hours after Iraqi officials had said the vote would happen on Saturday, March 6.

    Officials have not explained the reason for the one-day delay.  But local media reports say Kurdish groups objected to the March 6 date because it coincides with the anniversary of the 1975 Algiers Agreement between Iran and Iraq. Kurds say the border treaty marginalized them. 

    The vote was originally set for January 16, but the government postponed the date because parliament took months to approve an electoral law the Iraqi constitution says must be in place 60 days before the vote. The law passed late Sunday.

    Washington and Baghdad consider the elections to be a test of the strength of Iraq's democracy and security. 

    The United States said this week the Iraqi parliament's negotiations and passage of a new election law demonstrated that Iraqis and their leaders are committed to resolving their differences peacefully in accord with the constitution.

    The White House said it respects Iraq's constitution, including article 140 that addresses the dispute over Kirkuk and other disputed internal borders.

    Kirkuk is an ethnically mixed, oil-rich region in northern Iraq.  Iraqi Kurds want to incorporate the area into their autonomous region. But many Arab and Turkmen residents oppose such a move and want Kirkuk to remain under the control of Iraq's central government.

    Parliamentary debate over how to conduct the polls in Kirkuk long-delayed passage of the election law.
     

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