Iraqi lawmakers overcame long-standing divisions Sunday to pass a law needed to conduct parliamentary elections early next year.

Parliament approved the law late Sunday in a nearly unanimous vote.

The new law expands parliament from the current 275 seats to 325 seats.

The bill took shape during several months of intense debate over how much parliamentary representation should be given to Iraq's minority groups.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi said the law resolves his objections.  He had demanded revisions to give his Sunni minority group a greater political voice.

The vice president vetoed an earlier version of the law that did not meet this condition.

The White House congratulated the Iraqi people and their elected representatives in passing the law and called it a "decisive moment for Iraq's democracy."

According to a White House statement, both President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden spoke Sunday with Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani.  The U.S. leaders affirmed America's commitment to a long-term relationship with Iraq, including the K.R.G.

The United States has linked the pace of its military withdrawal from Iraq to the elections, which are considered a test of the country's ability to provide its own security.

Iraqi leaders had warned that if the law was further delayed, the elections previously planned for January would be postponed for at least a month.

On the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Sunday, gunmen stormed a police checkpoint in Abu Ghraib, killing four officers.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters..