DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ The United Arab Emirates announced Thursday it will hold a limited form of voting to pick members of a consultative council, a small step toward widening political participation in a country that has never held elections.

The reform is a limited one, allowing a select group to vote to choose half the members of the Federal National Council, the closest body the country has to a parliament, though it does not have legislative powers. The other half of the council's members will continue to be appointed.

``We have decided to start activating the role of the FNC through electing half of its members through councils for each emirate and appointing the other half. By doing this, we will embark on a march that culminates in more participation and interaction from all the citizen of the country,'' the UAE president, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said, announcing the reform, according to the official Emirates news agency.

He did not say when the partial elections will be held.

The Abu Dhabi-based Federal National Council currently has 40 members representing the country's seven emirates. Each emirate has a set number of members, based on its size.

Under the reform, the leader of each emirate will continue to select half of his representatives. He will also select a larger group of people who will vote among themselves to pick the other half.

The Emirates is the only country among the six Gulf Cooperation Council members that has yet to hold any form of political elections.

The country has embarked on a major development campaign, attracting billions of dollars in investments, setting up free zones and continuously modernizing its infrastructure.