Iraq's parliament, spurred by a threat from its speaker that it would be dissolved, on Wednesday passed a budget and approved two major bills that are considered crucial for national reconciliation.
Lawmakers hailed the actions as the first time that rival political blocs had made significant concessions to pass legislation. They came on the last day before a five-week break.
"After very hard discussions, we bridged the gaps between the blocs," said Hassan al Sneid, a Shiite Muslim lawmaker. "These are strategically important laws. It will affect Iraq's economic, security and political situations."
The major winners are Sunni Muslims -- who won a limited amnesty for prisoners and an Oct. 1 date for provincial elections -- and Kurds, who won a budget that allocated 17 percent of Iraq's funds to them, instead of 13 percent as the Shiite-led government had proposed.
Shiite legislators groused about having to give the Kurds more money than they thought they deserved. But Khalid al Atiya, the parliament's deputy speaker, promised that a new census to be taken later this year would clarify what percentage of Iraq's population lived where and would prevent further disputes.
The above is from Leila Fadel's "Iraqis set provincial elections, agree on detainee amnesty" (McClatchy Newspapers) and Raheem Salman and Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) also cover the topic noting that there was another walkout yesterday, that "questions remain about how they will be implemented" (recalling Chalabi's earlier criticism), that they now go before the presidency council and note this:
Analysts cautioned, however, that Iraqi leaders remained deeply divided on key issues, including the distribution of Iraq's massive oil wealth and the future of disputed territories such as oil-rich Kirkuk.
"These are issues that go to the heart of the differences between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds," said Joost Hilterman, Middle East director for the International Crisis Group. "We are far from out of the tunnel."
The prison amnesty is pretty much meaningless (and includes no provision regarding the many women and children held in Iraqi prisons and in US-run Iraqi prisons). In this morning's New York Times, Solomon Moore's "Thousands of New Prisoners Overwhelm Iraqi System" addresses the prison-industrial-complex the US has created in Iraq:
The increase in American troops in Iraq over the past year has been accompanied by waves of new Iraqi detainees, inundating the country's already overburdened prisons and courts, American officials said Wednesday.
"Tens of thousands of new prison beds" is what Moore quotes unnamed US officials declaring are needed and he notes that there are "24,000 additional presioners held in separate American military prisons" in addition to the "the 26,000 prisoners" held in Iraqi prisons "still awaiting trial".
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