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Iraq clears way for elections in important step toward reconciliation

Iraq clears way for parl

Iraqi lawmakers approved plans Sunday to hold parliamentary elections early next year - an important step toward political reconciliation, which would lead to the withdrawal of US troops. The vote - during an emergency session convened just before a midnight deadline - followed marathon talks by political leaders to break an impasse over balloting provisions that would satisfy the nation's rival groups. Plans for the election had been mired for weeks over Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi demands for a greater political voice for minority Sunnis and the distribution of seats in Iraq's expanded 325-seat parliament. The election is scheduled for January 16, but a delay of a month or more now appears likely. A longer postponement could have complicated the withdrawal timetable for US forces, which are scheduled to end combat missions in August.
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