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Obama, Biden Pressed Iraq Election Deal

Tuesday, 08 December 2009 09:52 AM

BAGHDAD - President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden intervened personally to save an agreement allowing Iraq's elections to proceed, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Monday, highlighting the stakes in the deal for an eventual American troop withdrawal.

In separate phone calls Sunday with Massoud Barzani, the powerful president of Iraq's Kurdish region, Obama and Biden persuaded him to withdraw the Kurds' objections to an elections law, Kurdish lawmakers said. Iraq's parliament approved the deal late Sunday in Baghdad, ending months of sectarian wrangling that have delayed the elections.

Iraqi lawmakers said the White House pledged to help deal with Kurdish concerns, particularly a swath of disputed territory that both Arabs and Kurds claim. But those promises appeared to fall short of hard guarantees to solve the disputes clouding Iraq's future.

No final date has been set for the elections, but they're expected to take place around Feb. 27, about a month late.

"They pressed the Kurds to accept," said Mahmoud Othman, a leading independent Kurdish lawmaker. "That had an important effect in the Kurds accepting the resolution, in spite of it not being ideal" from their viewpoint, he said.

Last month, Barzani, who heads the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, had threatened a Kurdish boycott, saying the draft elections law didn't assign enough parliamentary seats to Kurdish regions.

It was one of numerous objections based on sectarian politics that stalled the law. The final deal gave three additional seats to the Kurds and reflected Sunni Muslims' demands for greater representation.

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Tuesday, 08 December 2009 09:52 AM
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