A Sunni bloc in Iraq's parliament on Monday criticized a new law that will allow thousands of Saddam Hussein-era officials to return to government jobs, with the bloc's leader predicting the legislation would have a "short life." 2

A Sunni bloc in Iraq’s parliament on Monday criticized a new law that will allow thousands of Saddam Hussein-era officials to return to government jobs, with the bloc’s leader predicting the legislation would have a “short life.”

A Sunni bloc in Iraq’s parliament on Monday criticized a new law that will allow thousands of Saddam Hussein-era officials to return to government jobs, with the bloc’s leader predicting the legislation would have a “short life.”

The Bush administration views the law as central to mending deep fissures between minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds and the majority Shiites who now wield power here. Iraq’s presidency council issued the measure Sunday, after it was approved by parliament on Jan. 12.

But it became law without the signature of Iraq’s Sunni vice president, and the presidency council itself cited reservations and plans to seek changes in the bill — clouding hopes it would encourage reconciliation.

Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of the National Dialogue Front, called the government’s decision to issue the law “a regrettable one.”

“The law was approved by a strange way, because the presidency council did not take a position — either accepting or refusing the measure during a 10-day period,” al-Mutlaq told reporters Monday at Iraq’s parliament building in the U.S.-guarded Green Zone.

“The silence led to the approval of this law,” he said. “We expect it to have a short life.”

Also Monday, Iraq’s parliament postponed a vote on the government’s US$48 billion budget for 2008, amid a dispute between Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni blocs over the amount of money to be allocated to the Kurdish regional government in Iraq’s north.

Kurdish lawmakers are pushing for 17 percent of the total budget — the same percentage as allocated to the KRG under previous governments. But others argue that the KRG’s portion should be lower, based on various census figures that show Kurds make up a smaller proportion of the population than in the past.

The budget vote was put off until Thursday, lawmakers said.

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