Iraq minorities quota 'an insult'

Baghdad, Iraq - Iraqi MPs have voted to guarantee six provincial council seats for members of small religious and ethnic minorities in local elections to be held in 2009.

The reserved seats, out of a total of more than 400, are intended for three Christians and one each for the tiny Yazidi, Mandean and Shabak groups.

There has been some criticism that the measure falls short of the 12 guaranteed seats proposed by the UN.

A Christian MP said it was a major insult to all of Iraq's minorities.

"It is a degrading decision for the unique minorities of this country. It does not serve public interest and we consider it a major insult for all minorities in Iraq," said Christian MP Yunadim Kanna.

The matter now goes to the three-member Iraqi presidency council, which has the power of veto over proposed laws.

Iraq's population of 28 million is overwhelmingly Muslim, with most from the Shia branch of Islam. Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds also make up a significant proportion of the population.

There are an estimated 800,000 Christians in Iraq and 200,000 Yazidis, while other minorities number in the thousands or tens of thousands.