Iraqi lawmakers end summer recess, must work on new election law, security pact with US

BAGHDAD (AP) âÄî Iraqi lawmakers end their summer break this week facing urgent tasks of approving a new election law and signing off on a still-unfinished security pact with the U.S. âÄî key steps in laying the foundation for a lasting peace. The 275-member legislature failed last month to approve a law providing for provincial elections this fall after Kurds objected to a power-sharing arrangement for the oil-rich area around Kirkuk, which they want to incorporate into their self-ruled region in the north. U.N. and Iraqi election officials warn the balloting cannot be held this year unless parliament approves the measure quickly after it reconvenes Tuesday. But weeks of private meetings and contacts among Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers have failed to produce any breakthrough on the issue, and it was unclear whether the bill would win speedy approval. U.S. and Iraqi officials believe new elections in Iraq’s 18 provinces are an essential step to building a long-term peace among the country’s rival religious and ethnic communities. Voters will choose provincial councils, which wield considerable power at the local level.