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Iraq's Talabani rejects election law

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  • Rejection may doom what has been touted as all-important legislation
  • Measure had faced strong opposition from Kurdish lawmakers
  • Negotiations are possible, could lead to agreement on election plan
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's president has rejected the recently passed provincial elections law, his office said on Wednesday -- a move that appears to doom what has been touted as all-important legislation for the country.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, rejected a provincial elections laws.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, rejected a provincial elections laws.

President Jalal Talabani's office released a statement criticizing parliament's passage Tuesday of the measure, which would set guidelines for the elections.

The measure had faced strong opposition from Kurdish lawmakers, who boycotted Tuesday's parliamentary session to protest a secret ballot held on a part of the law dealing with the Kirkuk region.

Such legislation must be ratified by the three members of the presidency council -- which includes Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Arab; Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shiite; and Talabani, who is Kurdish.

"The president, who does not agree with such a law, which was voted on by 127 deputies who do not represent half of parliament, is confident that the presidency council will not pass it," Talabani's office said.

CNN on Tuesday quoted a lawmaker saying that 141 members of the 275-member parliament had voted for the measure. But another lawmaker said Wednesday that the session was attended by 141 members, with 127 members voting for the law.

The statement called the secret ballot "a very dangerous constitutional violation" and a refutation of the constitution's spirit, which promotes dealing with matters by consensus.

It is possible that the presidency council and lawmakers could embark on negotiations that would overcome disagreements over the law.

"The president looks forward to a responsible position from the political leaders and heads of parliamentary blocs to correct this constitutional and political flaw that was passed based on narrow and individual motives and to return trust to the atmosphere between the country's three components," Talabani's statement said.

The Kurdish opposition stems from intense political disputes among the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens in the Kirkuk region, which is regarded by the Kurds as a majority Kurdish region.

The Kurds oppose any power-sharing arrangement that would not reflect what they believe is their majority and they want a long-delayed referendum that would ask Kirkuk residents whether they want to be part of the Kurdish Regional Government.

The United States and Iraq's government regard these local elections as an essential step in developing democracy and promoting national reconciliation, key political goals they say would help stabilize the country. And such elections would give groups such as Sunni Arabs more of a say in the country's politics.

Officials have hoped for the local elections to be held sometime in autumn, but the political dispute -- coupled with parliament's one-month break beginning July 31 -- virtually assures a delay.

Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission originally set an October 1 deadline for elections, but it now says that date can no longer be met.

Commission members said they believe that if the presidency council approves the current law, they can stage the elections by mid-December.

Earlier drafts of the provincial elections law had the October 1 date, but reference to any specific date was removed in the latest version.

The legislation says the government would announce the election date based on the electoral commission's recommendations, and that announcement should come at least 60 days before the date set for the election.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

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