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Iraq lawmakers divide control of Kirkuk in election bill compromise

[JURIST] Iraqi law makers Monday reached an agreement to temporarily divide control of Kirkuk [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] among the city's ethnic groups, as part of a compromise bill providing for provincial elections in the city. Control of Kirkuk has been major point of contention, with Kurdish members of the country's parliament [official website, in Arabic] demanding a referendum allowing city residents to decide whether or not to join the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq. Kirkuk Turkmen and Arabs had opposed the referendum [VOI report] for fear of eviction should the city become part of the region, and instead had supported long-term proportional representation among the groups. A vote on the elections bill was originally planned to take place on Sunday, but is now scheduled for Tuesday because of delays in reaching the agreement [AFP report]. Reuters has more.

An earlier version of the bill had been passed [Council of Representatives press release, in Arabic; AP report] by the Iraqi parliament in July, but was rejected by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani [official website, in Arabic; BBC profile] and the two other members of the Iraqi Presidency Council because Kurdish parliamentarians had walked out of the vote in protest [JURIST report]. In February, the Presidency Council rejected an earlier draft provincial elections law [JURIST report] that detailed the relationship between Iraq's central and local governments, sending the legislation back to parliament. The draft law was part of a package of legislation approved [JURIST report] by the parliament earlier that month that also included the 2008 budget and an amnesty bill [JURIST report] that will lead to the release of roughly 5,000 prisoners. 

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