Iraq postponed once again its first full census in more than two decades on Tuesday as it struggles to end a longstanding dispute between majority Arabs and minority Kurds over land and oil.
No new date was set for the census, which had previously been scheduled for 24 October and then delayed until 5 December.
The survey is keenly awaited because it will answer questions key to the future of northern oilfields – areas in Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces disputed by Arabs and Kurds.
Environment Minister Nermeen Othman, who attended a cabinet meeting that took the decision on Tuesday, said a new date for the survey would be set in the coming days after a meeting between Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and local officials from Nineveh and Kirkuk.
US military officials see Arab-Kurd tensions as a potential flashpoint for future conflict in Iraq, still suffering deep wounds from the sectarian warfare unleashed by the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
Iraq had already postponed plans to hold a census when the country was at the peak of sectarian violence in 2007.
The census is critical to the future of Iraq's disputed territories, which Baghdad wants to keep and the Kurds want to fold into their semi-autonomous northern enclave.
The centrepiece of the dispute is Kirkuk, a volatile ethnic stew of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and others. US officials have said the province sits atop 4 per cent of the world's oil reserves.