Iraq's presidency council has approved a long-delayed provincial election law, paving the way for polls to take place in most regions early next year.

To resolve the latest dispute over the measure, the three-member presidential panel led by President Jalal Talabani said it is asking lawmakers to pass separate legislation to reserve some seats in provincial councils for minorities.  The minorities would include Christians, Yazidis and other small religious or ethnic groups.

The old law guaranteed seats for minority communities, but the new version passed by parliament last month omits the quotas.  Many political leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, have criticized that change and urged a restoration of the quota system to protect minority rights.

The presidency rejected an earlier version of the provincial election law over the contentious issue of Kirkuk.  Kurdish lawmakers objected to the way a power-sharing deal would have distributed Kirkuk's council seats among the region's ethnic groups.  That issue has also been dropped from the new election law and will be dealt with separately.