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Iraq Election Results to be Reviewed
Military.com  |  December 29, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq - An international team has agreed to review Iraq's parliamentary elections, announcing Thursday that members would travel to Iraq in response to protests by Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups that the polls were tainted by fraud.

The announcement came after the Sunni and secular Shiite groups refused to open discussions with the Shiite religious bloc leading in the elections without a full review of the contested results, despite a U.N. observer's endorsement of the Dec. 15 vote. The official, Craig Jenness, said Wednesday his U.N.-led international election assistance team found the elections to be fair - remarks that represented crucial support for Iraqi election commission officials, who refused opposition demands to step down.

Among the International Mission for Iraqi Elections will be two representatives from the Arab League, one member of the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians and a respected European academic, the group said Thursday. The independent group said it helped monitor the elections in Baghdad and was "assisted by monitors from countries of the European Union working under IMIE's umbrella."

The team will travel to Iraq at the invitation of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. An official for the commission, Safwat Rashid, said a review could "evaluate what happened during the elections and what's going on now. We are highly confident that we did our job properly and we have nothing to hide."

Preliminary results from the vote have given the governing Shiite religious bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, a big lead - but one which still would require forming a coalition with other groups.

Nasser al-Ani, a senior official in the main Sunni Arab coalition - the Iraqi Accordance Front - told The Associated Press that his political group favored participating in broad-based coalition government, but would not begin contacts "until we get a clear picture about the results of the investigation."

"We are not taking part in discussions," he said.

Mehedi al-Hafidh, a senior member of the secular Iraqi National List headed by former Shiite Premier Ayad Allawi, raised similar concerns.

The invitation to review the process and about 1,500 complaints lodged by candidates and parties was welcomed by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, who said "these experts will be arriving immediately and we are ready to assist them, if needed."

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