Diplomats and aides to Congolese President Joseph Kabila say he has given his long-awaited approval for the country's new electoral law. The promulgation of the law means the path is clear to begin registering candidates and preparing for elections.

The promulgation of Congo's electoral law, a document that will govern how the first free elections in 40 years are run, was long awaited.

The law was debated long and hard in the parliament. As the official end of Congo's period of transition from war to democracy drew closer, concerns rose over the delay in scheduling elections.

But diplomatic and presidency sources said Thursday President Joseph Kabila has promulgated the law.  Mr. Kabila's spokesman said he could not confirm the rubber-stamping of the law, but the electoral commission is expected to announce dates for the landmark polls at a news conference.

In addition to setting the dates for legislative and presidential elections, the promulgation of the law means the process of registering candidates can begin. It also allows for the printing of ballot papers for 25 million voters and distributing them across the vast, chaotic country.

Congo's latest attempt to build a democratic state after decades of dictatorship, war and chaos has been plagued by continued fighting in the lawless east, and wrangling within the fragile transitional government in Kinshasa.

Added to these challenges is the logistical nightmare of organizing an election in a country the size of Western Europe, where there are virtually no modern roads.

Successful polls would be the first step in rebuilding a country, where the last war sucked in six neighboring countries and killed some four million people, mostly from hunger and disease.