Iraqi Lawmakers Grant One Seat for Christians ahead of Elections

The Iraqi parliament has approved legislation reserving a quota of seats on provincial councils for Christians and other religious minorities in next year's provincial elections.

The number of seats set aside for Christians falls far below the 12 recommended by the UN.

Under the bill, passed by 106 out of the 150 legislators present at Monday's session, only one seat out of the 440 available in total will be reserved for Christians on the provincial councils of Baghdad, Nineveh and Basra.

The remainder of the quota will be taken up by Yazidis, a small non-Muslim Kurdish community in the Nineveh area, and politicians from the smaller Sabean and Shabak communities, whose religions fuse Islam with other faith influences including Christianity.

The provincial elections are due to be held in January 2009 following a number of setbacks, including a backlash from the international Christian community and the UN over legislation passed in September that revoked the quota for minorities on provincial councils.

The new legislation will now head to the national presidency council for final approval.

Christians and other minorities continue to face persecution under the Shiite Muslim-led Iraqi government, with Christians in Mosul hit hardest. In October, 13,000 Christians fled the city after a wave of death threats and killings by Sunni insurgents.