Six of their ministers walked out of the Cabinet in August, accusing Iraq's Shiite leaders of refusing to share power. One of their major concerns was the plight of Sunni prisoners accused of participating in the insurgency, some of whom have languished in U.S. and Iraqi custody for years without trial. Under the new bill, thousands of those in Iraqi custody could be released, provided they have not been convicted of major crimes.
But a smaller Sunni faction, the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, said the amnesty measure did not go far enough and refused to vote on it. Saleh Mutlak, who heads the group, told journalists after the session that parliament should be dissolved because it was incapable of doing anything positive for Iraqis.
The record 2008 budget includes additional spending on salaries, economic development and reconstruction projects that lawmakers hope will create much-needed jobs, said Khalid Attiya, a Shiite deputy speaker of parliament.
Passage of the bill was delayed by squabbling over a demand by the Kurdish north that 17% of central government spending be directed to that region. Some Sunni and Shiite politicians argued that the region no longer accounts for that much of the Iraqi population, but agreed to allow it to retain 17% pending a census this year.
Lawmakers loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr were not mollified by the compromise and also walked out.
Times staff writers Peter Spiegel in Washington and Saif Hameed in Baghdad and a special correspondent in Baghdad contributed to this report.