Iraq VP: 'Optimistic' signs on election accord

AP News
Posted: Dec 05, 2009 2:32 PM

Iraq's vice president said Saturday there are "optimistic signs" toward a political agreement on parliamentary elections, but warned he could again veto the plan if it does not meet his demands for greater Sunni outreach in the balloting.

Tariq al-Hashemi has held up the planning for scheduled Jan. 16 elections because he wants to give a greater voice to Iraqis living abroad, most of whom are fellow Sunni Arabs and could boost Sunni seats in the new 323-seat parliament.

Some officials have proposed a delay in the election until late February or early March _ which could complicate the Pentagon withdrawal timetable that calls for U.S. combat missions to halt at the end of August.

Al-Hashemi has until Sunday to decide to reinstate his veto. Parliament is expected to convene to discuss possible compromise plans, but lawmakers failed Saturday to get a quorum for an emergency session on the election impasse.

Al-Hashemi told state-run al-Iraqiya television he sees progress. But he left open the option of using the veto again if parliament failed to address his demands.

"There are optimistic signs and I hope the remaining simple points of dispute will be resolved by the political groups," he said.

He added, however, a message to some Shiite blocs that have objected to the possibility of concessions to Sunnis, who were privileged under Saddam Hussein. After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraq's majority Shiites took command of the nation's political leadership and security forces.

"I hope the hard line adopted by some people in parliament will not compel me to use the veto again," al-Hashemi said without naming specific lawmakers.