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Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey

BAGHDAD – Iraqi lawmakers achieved a major breakthrough on Wednesday, passing the 2008 budget after weeks of delay and an amnesty law that could lead to the release of thousands of prisoners from the country’s jails.

Parliament also passed a provincial powers law that will define ties between Baghdad and local authorities. That paves the way for provincial elections to be held by October 1.

“I’d like to congratulate the … government and people of Iraq for these significant accomplishments,” the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, told reporters.

Scores of lawmakers had stormed out of the legislature on Tuesday evening, blocking a vote on the bills in a sign of the deep distrust between the country’s Shi’ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish politicians. Some MPs said parliament should be disbanded and new elections held.

But parliament convened again on Wednesday and despite a walkout by some lawmakers, managed to overcome a row over voting procedures to pass the three measures as a package.