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Iraq parliament speaker threatens to dissolve fractious assembly after lawmaker walkout

[JURIST] Shi'ite and Sunni lawmakers walked out of Iraq's parliament [official website, in Arabic] Tuesday, prompting speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani [JURIST news archive] to threaten to disband the legislature. The walkout was sparked by divisions between Kurdish and other lawmakers over what percentage of the national income [JURIST report] should be reserved for the Kurdish semi-autonomous region. The walkout blocked a vote on the $48 billion 2008 Iraqi budget, an amnesty law [JURIST report] that would release roughly 5,000 prisoners, and a bill that would detail the relationship between Iraq's central and local governments.

The walkout and threat of dissolution represent a significant set-back for the government, which had been praised earlier this week by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates for recently passing a law allowing the reentry of former Baathists into government [JURIST report]. Al-Mashhadani said that sectarian distrust was so entrenched that the only solution might be to hold new elections. If parliament is dissolved, new elections would have to be held within 60 days. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

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