BAGHDAD, Iraq – Final results from last month's parliamentary elections might not be announced for two more weeks, an official said Tuesday, a day after Iraq's main Sunni Arab group agreed on broad outlines for a coalition government.
The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has completed its investigation of almost 2,000 election complaints and will announce the findings Wednesday, commission member Hussein Hindawi told The Associated Press.
But the commission won't announce final election results until an international team finishes its work, meaning results might not be ready for two weeks, said commission member Safwat Rashid. Officials previously said final results of the Dec. 15 vote would be announced in early January.
The commission investigated 1,980 complaints, including 50 that were considered serious enough to alter results in some districts, an election official said.
The international team, which began its work Monday, agreed to review Iraq's elections after protests by Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups that the polls were tainted with fraud.
Preliminary results give the governing Shiite religious bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, a big lead but one that still would require forming a coalition with other groups.
U.S. aircraft bombed a house Monday night in Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding four, Iraqi police Capt. Arkan Jassim said. The U.S. military said an unmanned aircraft spotted three men planting a roadside bomb, and that Navy F-14s bombed a nearby building the three entered.
In other violence Tuesday, 10 people were killed in four separate attacks in Baghdad.
Gunmen attacked a car carrying construction workers in a western neighborhood, killing three, police Capt. Qasim Hussein said. A car carrying civilians was fired on in the same area, killing two, said police 1st Lt. Thair Mahmoud.
Also in the capital, gunmen also killed two Interior Ministry bodyguards riding in a car, Maj. Alaa Mohammed said. Three civilians elsewhere in Baghdad were shot to death, police said.
As part of the bargaining for a new coalition government, President Jalal Talabani assured Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari that his fellow Kurds would not object if the United Iraqi Alliance — the Shiite religious bloc that won the most votes in the election — again nominates him for the post of prime minister.
But it was the agreement struck by Kurdistan regional President Massoud Barzani and representatives of the main Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front that opened the way for a new broad-based government. It also drew the ire of minority parties and secular groups.
"They will be part of a future government," said Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who sat in on the meetings.
Sunni Arabs and secular parties, such as the one headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a Shiite, have complained the elections were tainted by fraud and intimidation. They have demanded a new vote in some provinces, including Baghdad.
With the agreement, the Accordance Front seems to have broken a pact to only discuss those complaints during their meetings with the Kurds. Opposition groups are waiting for international monitors to assess the elections. The U.N. has called the vote credible.
The International Mission for Iraqi Elections said it helped monitor the elections in Baghdad and was assisted by monitors from countries of the European Union.
Hindawi said some members of the international team had begun working.
Rashid said that although his panel was separate from the international monitoring team, it would take into consideration the international team's findings before announcing results. "If they work hard, they might finish within a week," he said.
It took about two weeks to announce final results from interim parliamentary elections on Jan. 30, 2005.
Adnan al-Dulaimi and Tarek al-Hashimi, leaders of the main Sunni Arab group the Iraqi Accordance Front, discussed the shape of a future government with Barzani in Irbil, which in recent days has become a pilgrimage site for southern politicians. The leader of the Shiite religious bloc, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, visited last week.
"There is an agreement to form a balanced Iraqi government by consensus and cooperation and away from any sectarian affairs," al-Dulaimi said.
Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of the Sunni Arab National Dialogue Front, told The Associated Press he was shocked when he heard that al-Dulaimi and al-Hashimi were discussing a national unity government.
The Accordance Front could be trying to shut out groups headed by al-Mutlaq and Allawi to form a government with the Shiite bloc and the Kurds.
"This act definitely weakens and distracts our claims about the fraudulent results," al-Mutlaq said of the Accordance Front's agreement. "I believe they are capable of making a deal with the devil himself so that they can be represented widely in the coming government."
The Shiite religious bloc may win about 130 seats in the 275-seat parliament — short of the 184 seats needed to avoid a coalition with other parties to elect a president. That election is a prerequisite before a government can be formed.
The Kurds could get about 55 seats, the main Sunni Arab groups about 50 — the Front getting about 40 and al-Mutlaq's group 10 — and Allawi secular's bloc could receive about 25.
A deal by the three groups — the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, the Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front and the Kurdish coalition — could go a long way toward quickly forming a government that would have widespread approval among Iraq's three main ethnic and sectarian groups, leading to a decrease in violence from Sunni Arab insurgents.