US Military Cancels Deployment of Army Brigade to Iraq
US Military Cancels Deployment of Army Brigade to Iraq

The head of Iraq's electoral commission says the presidential council has called for the nation's parliamentary election to be held January 18 instead of January 21, as proposed earlier this week.

Faraj al-Haidari said Wednesday that the decision on when to hold the poll is up to the council.

The date of the vote has been uncertain for weeks due to a political deadlock over an election law. Lawmakers finally passed the law on Sunday.

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the law's passage, calling it an important milestone toward ensuring lasting peace in Iraq.

The national election is seen as a crucial test as Iraq takes more responsibility for its own security ahead of a gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Iraqis will be casting ballots to fill 323 parliamentary seats.  That number is up from 275 in the current parliament, based on a formula that calls for one representative for every 100,000 Iraqis.

A key part of the dispute over the election law involved how to conduct the vote in northern Iraq's ethnically-divided, oil-rich region of Kirkuk.

Lawmakers eventually decided that votes in Kirkuk will be subject to a special review to determine if there has been an unusual increase in registered voters.  The region's Arab and Turkmen residents claim Kurds have moved into the region to tip the balance in their favor.  

The Kurds want to incorporate Kirkuk into their autonomous region in northern Iraq, but Arabs and Turkmen want the region to remain under the control of the central government.

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