In Iraq, a political dispute continued to simmer Sunday, as parliament put off debate on an appeals court verdict allowing hundreds of banned candidates with alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party to take part in national elections.
An extraordinary parliamentary session to discuss the issue, scheduled for Sunday, was put off until Monday. Iraqi Parliament Speaker Iyad al Samaraie said some key information was needed to debate the issue.
He says he is waiting for the final report of the appeals court, which ruled that banned candidates could remain on the ballot for March 7 parliamentary elections, as well as original documents pertaining to specific candidates before holding the debate Monday. The appeals court, he argues, should have the confidence of everyone, and should have the final say in the matter. The appeals court ruled that banned candidates must be cleared of links to the Ba'ath Party before they can be seated in Iraq's new parliament.
Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki called for the parliamentary debate after branding the appeals court decision "illegal."
The ban prompted Iraqi Sunnis to accuse Iraq's Shi'ite-led government of trying to marginalize Sunni politicians.
Sunni Parliament speaker Samaraie said the dispute between Iraq's Sunni and Shi'ite political leaders should be settled before February 12, when campaigning begins.
Rival Sh'ite leaders, including Deputy Parliament Speaker Khaled al Attiya, and parliament legal committee chairman Baha al Araji want Iraq's Supreme Judicial Court to have the final word in resolving the dispute. Sunni lawmakers say the Supreme Court is biased in favor of Shi'ites.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad and Najaf, hundreds of Shi'ite demonstrators demanded that alleged members of the outlawed Ba'ath Party be banned from political life.
The escalating political dispute comes at a time of increasing sectarian violence. Three major explosions targeting Shi'ite pilgrims occurred during the past week. Many analysts worry that violence could get worse if elections were delayed.