Iraq's parliament has passed a long-delayed election law required for national elections to be held in January.
The law won approval Sunday from 141 of 195 Iraq lawmakers present. The lawmakers overcame a key dispute about how to conduct the election in northern Iraq's ethnically-mixed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
During the session, U.S. ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill shuttled between rival factions to press them to reach a deal.
At the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the passage of the law, calling it an important milestone toward ensuring lasting peace in Iraq. He also said it will pave the way for an orderly withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by next September.
Iraq's upcoming national elections are a crucial test as the country takes more responsibility for its own security ahead of a gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Iraqi Kurds have long sought to incorporate Kirkuk into their autonomous region in northern Iraq. But, many of the city's Arab and Turkmen residents oppose such a move and want to remain under the control of Iraq's central government.
The details of the agreement on Kirkuk are not yet clear.
It also is not clear if the delayed passage of the law will give Iraqi authorities enough time to hold the elections as scheduled in mid-January.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had warned that Iraq could spiral into a new cycle of chaos if the elections do not go ahead.