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Iraq Christians Demand Reserved Council Seats

BAGHDAD (AFP) -- Iraqi Christians called on the Shiite-led government on Monday to reinstate a legal provision reserving provincial council seats for representatives of minority communities.

The Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Baghdad, Shlimon Warduni, told a rally at a charity centre in the capital's once upmarket Karrada district that MPs needed to reinstate the clause which was dropped from a provincial elections law adopted by parliament on September 24.

"We can find no explanation for the repeal of the article," the bishop said.

"We defend the rights that have been stolen from us and call on the authorities to ensure that there is no discrimination.

"With one voice, we appeal to our leaders -- (President) Jalal Talabani, (Prime Minister) Nuri al-Maliki, (parliament speaker) Mahmud al-Mashhadani, (Shiite spiritual leader) Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and the (Sunni) Association of Muslim Scholars to restore Article 50."

The dropping of the clause from the law adopted by parliament has drawn criticism from the United Nations as well as Iraqi minorities.

When Iraq's three-man presidency council ratified the law on Friday, it urged MPs to reconsider their decision to omit the provision.

Christians already held protests against parliament's decision in the main northern city of Mosul earlier this month.

About 400,000 Christians live in Iraq, half the number there were before the US-led invasion of 2003. The country also has other minority groups including the Yazidis, a non-Muslim Kurdish community.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called on the electoral commission to ensure that the rights of minority communities are protected by the law.


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