Christian Iraq presidency approves local council quota for minorities

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s three-member presidency council on Saturday approved a controversial resolution that will reserve six local council seats for the nation’s minority groups.

“In order to fix the rights of the minority seats in the future, the presidency council decided to approve the decision voted on before by the parliament,” said Naseer al-Ani, chief of staff for the council.

Earlier this month parliament voted in favour of a resolution to give three seats to Iraq’s Christians and three to other religious minorities, the Yazidis, Sabeans and Shabak.

The new quota approved by the council, which groups Iraq’s president and two vice presidents, will be implemented only for the provincial election expected at the end of January 2009.

The poll will be held in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. The new law excludes the disputed northern oil province of Kirkuk and the three Kurdish provinces of Arbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah.

The decision on minority seats came after Iraqi Christians complained bitterly that controversial legislation passed in September that will govern the provincial polls excluded guarantees of representation for minority groups.

The law sparked street protests staged by minority groups and strong criticism from the United Nations, which last month proposed 12 seats in all for Christians and other communities.

The new quota remains controversial among Christian politicians who had hoped to receive at least six local council seats for their community.

Around 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq at the time of the US-led invasion in 2003, but the number has since shrunk by around a third as members fled the country, according to Christian leaders§ion=middleeast&col=