3rd Year Week 3 HT05

Topic: Iraq Election


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Fresh violence mars election campaign


An unnamed foreign election adviser in Baghdad told the Associated Press that Iraqis may have to wait weeks to learn who has won the vote, with attacks by insurgents and other factors were expected to slow the counting process.

In the interest of transparency, some early results are likely to trickle out as ballots are counted, the adviser said, but Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission would not be able to declare winners until a painstaking count was finished.

"This isn't the type of election where you have a big tote board somewhere and you're marking the returns as they come in," he said. "It won't be on Sunday night."

Officials said the fact that Iraqis would choose a 275-member legislature meant the last 10% of ballots counted would be as critical as the first 10%. A strong showing by one party in the last ballots counted could significantly alter the results.

US soldiers around Baghdad were today stepping up operations ahead of the election, moving to forward positions around the capital until the end of balloting while stepping up security at their main bases, a brigade commander said.

In the UK, Mr Kennedy said British troops should be pulled out of Iraq as soon as possible and replaced by troops from other countries - especially Islamic countries - as soon as the security situation allowed. He said Britain and the US must set out a "proper exit strategy" from Iraq after Sunday's elections.

The 220 new British troops to be deployed will partially replace a 1,400-strong contingent from Holland, who have been responsible for stabilising the al-Muthanna province and are due to return home in March.

British military chiefs believe only 600 armed forces personnel are now required to replace them as "good progress" has been made training Iraqi security forces in the area.

Most of the replacement troops will come from UK units already deployed in Iraq, mainly the Queen's Dragoon Guards and the 2nd Battalion the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. But 220 more will be sent to provide logistics and other "essential support" - 70 of them returning home once the troops are successfully deployed to al-Muthanna.

Yesterday was the deadliest day for US forces in Iraq since the invasion, with 30 marines and one Navy sailor dying in a helicopter crash in bad weather in the western desert, and six US troops being killed in insurgent ambushes.

Later today, Senator Kennedy, of Massachusetts, will say, according to remarks released ahead of the speech: "It will not be easy to extricate ourselves from Iraq - but we must begin".

Today, another US marine was killed and five others injured when insurgents launched mortars at a base near Iskandariya, 30 miles south of Baghdad. A second marine died of gunshot wounds at a US base near Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, after an incident described by officials as an accident.

Three Iraqis were killed and seven injured when a roadside bomb missed a US convoy in Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad.

An Iraqi army soldier was killed and five civilians and two Iraqi police officers wounded when a suicide car bomb exploded near the Iraqi soldiers' patrol in Baquba. A roadside bomb near Tikrit killed one Iraqi bystander and narrowly missed a passing US military convoy.

Guardian Agencies
Thursday January 27, 2005