Iraq's Presidential Council reversed itself Wednesday and dropped its objection to a law setting up regional elections that could give Sunni Arabs more political power. The move, which came on the fifth anniversary of the start of the war and two days after a visit to Baghdad by Vice President Cheney, was seen as an important boost to US efforts to promote national reconciliation. The election law was approved by parliament Feb. 27. But it was controversial because it gives the central government – rather than local councils – the right to ask parliament to dismiss provincial governors.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Tight security restrictions went into effect in Israel Wednesday as the Jewish state prepared to celebrate the Purim holiday. But although the measures included the closure of border crossings into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, there were signs that a new cease-fire with Hamas may be near. A senior Defense Ministry official was in Cairo for discussions on the subject with Egyptian mediators, and Israel reportedly has not ruled out a Hamas demand that it be given a presence at crossings to and from Gaza.
Neighbors Bulgaria, Hungary, and Croatia jointly announced their recognition of Kosovo's independence Wednesday, a move that Serbian leaders acknowledged "with sadness." Canada also extended recognition Tuesday. Against that backdrop, UN police returned to their base in the Serb stronghold of Kosova Mitrovica, which they were forced to flee earlier this week amid the worst rioting so far over independence.
By unanimous vote, members of parliament in Kenya approved the power-sharing deal between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga. Odinga probably will take his oath of office as prime minister "within days," sources said. But analysts noted that the enabling legislation allows for their coalition government to be dissolved if either party decides to withdraw. In such a case, there is no provision for a new election.