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updated: 6/30/2013 1:39 PM

Iraq's Kurdish parliament extends leader's term

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Associated Press

IRBIL, Iraq -- The parliament of Iraq's Kurdish region voted Sunday to extend the term of its leader by two years, a sign of internal conflicts in the oil-rich, semiautonomous Iraqi area.

Regional parliament spokesman Tareq Juhar told The Associated Press that a majority of the lawmakers voted to keep Massoud Barzani as the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government through August 2015.

That reverses an announcement two months ago by the KRG government that parliamentary and presidential elections would be held Sept. 21.

Sunday's vote means the presidential election won't take place until 2015.

The Kurdish opposition rejected the extension.

Bilal Suleiman, a member of the opposition Kurdistan Islamic Party, said that such a move is illegal.

"We reject this extension, and I expect big protests by the people of Kurdistan against it," he added.

Barzani is the head of Democratic Party of Kurdistan. It has joined forces with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to rule the region.

The differences appeared to be the result of internal political power struggles, as opposed to the sectarian tensions that have been plaguing the rest of the country.

In violence Sunday, police said a bomb went off near a soccer field in al-Tamim village just east of Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 10 others.

Violence has been on the rise in Iraq recently, raising fears the nation is returning to the widespread sectarian-charged bloodshed that pushed it to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.

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