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Iraqi Parliament Fails Again to Approve New Electoral Law

The Iraqi parliament has postponed the vote to approve a new electoral law, Saturday, that it needs to hold January 16 parliamentary elections. It was the seventh time in the last month that Iraqi MPs were unable to resolve disagreements.

It was several times in recent weeks that the Iraqi parliament tried and failed to reach a consensus over a new electoral law to pave the way for scheduled parliamentary elections on January 16.

Iraqi TV had reported, earlier in the day, that a compromise had been reached over the thorny issue of Kirkuk, which pits Kurds, Turkomens and Arabs against each other, but the announcement proved in the end to be wishful thinking.

The head of Iraq's Electoral Committee, Faraj al-Haidari, has warned Iraqi politicians repeatedly that if they don't approve a new electoral law, soon, it will become impossible for elections to be held.

He says that each and every delay in approving the law affects the timeline of the election and the electoral commission will have to base all its planning on the text of the new electoral law, so it's difficult to say exactly when the (parliamentary) election can actually be held.

The Iraqi parliament has been quarreling for weeks over the key issue of how to apportion seats in the ethnically mixed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

An alliance of Sunni Arab politicians hope to divide seats equally in Kirkuk between Arabs, Kurds and Turcomen, while a Kurdish coalition is pushing to use a 2009 electoral role, reflecting recent growth in the city's Kurdish population.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned parliament that Iraq could be plunged into a new cycle of chaos and violence if elections do not go ahead as planned in January.

U.S. military officials have also warned that a postponement of January parliamentary elections could put a damper on plans to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq during the course of 2010.