- Title: IRAQ/IRAN: Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih arrives in Tehran
- Date: 14th August 2008
- Summary: (MER-1) TEHRAN, IRAN (AUGUST 13, 2008) (REUTERS) VIEW OF TEHRAN FROM PLANE
- Reuters ID: LVA4LPE7WNKRZTZR7JUTSTMSP9GA
- Duration: 00:00:06
- Topics: International Relations
- Story Text: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih says that the law to allow provincial elections in Iraq will be debated once the parliament is back in session. Salih embarks on a visit to Tehran to discuss bilateral relations with Iranian leadership.
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said on Wednesday (August 13) he is sure a much-delayed law on holding of provincial elections will be passed by parliament soon, but it is still uncertain that the vote will be held this year.
Salih, who left Baghdad en route to Tehran, commented on the vote on Provincial Elections Law, which Iraqi lawmakers postponed, since failing to resolve a standoff over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk which has stoked ethnic tension.
"As soon as parliament comes back to session this law will be debated by parliamentarians and will pass. Provincial elections are important, important for the political process and for our respect for the Iraqi constitution. The government of Iraq, the Iraqi parliament is under constitutional obligation to facilitate these elections within a time frame," he told Reuters on the plane heading to Iran.
Lawmakers failed to find enough consensus to hold the vote on August 5, and postponed the law until a summer recess, pushing the elections well into 2009.
"Our hope and our commitment is to hold it this year but that is very much contingent up on parliament ratifying this law as soon as it comes back to session," Salih said.
The controversy over Kirkuk, which Kurds regard as their ancestral capital, has hurt efforts to reconcile rival political groups.
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, vetoed a version of the election law last month. Kurds opposed it because it set ethnic quotas for Kirkuk's provincial council and would have replaced Kurdish troops there with forces from other parts of Iraq.
Kurds want to fold Kirkuk into their semi-autonomous northern region, a plan opposed by the city's Arab and Turkmen residents and all of the major non-Kurdish parties in Iraq.
"Actually the Kurdish side is happy to have an elections in Kirkuk or postponing it in Kirkuk, but we should not let other issues burden the process of this debate on election. Kirkuk can not be.. the issue of Kirkuk can only be settles in accordance with the constitution and according to the consensus of the people of Kirkuk," Salih said.
The provincial elections were originally scheduled for Oct. 1 and Washington is applying pressure on Iraqi leaders to resolve their differences quickly and avoid a long delay in a vote it regards as an important test of Iraq's democracy.
The United States believes holding the elections is an important step to strengthen Iraq's democracy and give a voice to groups who refused to participate in the past.
Iraq has become far quieter over the past year, with violence falling to levels unseen since early 2004.
Salih and a high ranking delegation of Iraqi officials arrived in Tehran and was welcomed by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Reza Sheikh Attar.
During his three-day visit, Salih is due to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
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