A German parliamentary committee investigating a growing visa scandal has decided it will likely not hear from Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer until after a key regional election in May.

The committee Thursday rejected a motion by center-right opposition parties to summon Mr. Fischer before the vote in North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state.

Lawmakers from the center-left ruling coalition say the minister should testify after they have had a chance to study documents relating to the visa scandal, which could take weeks.

Observers consider the election in the western state a key indicator of the coalition's chances of retaining power in next year's federal election.

Days ago, Mr. Fischer took responsibility for a growing scandal in which Ukrainian criminal gangs used illegal tourist visas to bring thousands of illegal immigrants into Germany.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP.