Al-Maliki backs legislative seats for religious minorities in Iraq

352-maliki.JPGThe Associated Press

Al-Maliki BAGHDAD | Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday sought safeguards for small religious communities in this mainly Muslim country.

Christians protested Parliament’s decision to stop setting aside seats for minorities.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, a series of explosions struck mostly Shiite areas Sunday evening, killing at least 25 people and wounding 51, police reported. The attacks appeared aimed at reviving sectarian tensions that once threatened to lead to civil war.

Parliament last week approved a measure mandating elections in most of Iraq’s 18 provinces. But the law removed a system that reserved a few legislative seats for Christians and other religious minorities.

Lawmakers cited a lack of census data to determine what the quotas should be. But many Christians saw the move as an effort to marginalize their community.

Hundreds of Christians staged street protests Sunday after church services in and around Mosul, a northern city where many of the country’s Christians live. Some said removing the quotas was an attempt to force them to leave Iraq.