BAGHDAD, Iraq – Certified results from last month's election should be released by late next week after the Iraqi election commission receives an interim report from international monitors looking into fraud complaints, a senior electoral official said Saturday.
The U.S. military command, meanwhile, reported that a U.S. Marine was killed in combat in western Iraq.
There had been hopes certified results from the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections would be announced in the next few days, allowing Iraqi parties to start putting together a new government.
But Safwat Rashid, a senior official on the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, said the study of fraud allegations had held up certification of the outcome.
"It is impossible to have the final election results this week," Rashid told The Associated Press, suggesting the numbers might not be released until sometime late next week.
But if further complaints are submitted, certified results could be held up until the end of the month, he said.
The leader of the main Sunni Arab political coalition, the Iraqi Accordance Front, said waiting for the international team's findings was a logical decision that could boost the credibility of the outcome.
"If the results were announced without the review by the international committee, the results would not be accurate or in accordance with the votes that were actually cast," Adnan al-Dulaimi said.
Sunni Arabs and secular Shiite Muslims have charged that the election was skewed in the favor of the governing Shiite religious alliance by intimidation of voters and other irregularities.
Monitors from the International Mission for Iraqi Elections arrived at the beginning of January to look into the complaints.
Sunni and secular parties have demanded a rerun of voting in some provinces, including Baghdad, which fills 59 of parliament's 275 seats.
Preliminary results gave the governing United Iraqi Alliance, a Shiite religious bloc, a strong lead. But it won't win enough seats to avoid having to form a coalition with Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties.
Kamal al-Saadi, a senior official in Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's Dawa party, said he had no problem with delaying the results.
He said the international team assessing the vote was here so that "there would be no doubt about the results in the minds of those who have complained."
About 2,000 complaints were filed after the election, including about 50 thought to be serious enough to affect the results in some of the more than 30,000 polling stations that were set up around this country of 27 million people.
"The work is still going on and we are still discussing all the information that we collected from all sides — electoral commission, international monitors and other (political) lists," Mazin Shuaib, executive manager of the international team told AP.
He added that "we are not facing any problem in our mission and all sides are cooperating."
Shuaib said the monitors would present a preliminary report within days but its final report would not be ready until after Jan. 22.
Rashid, the election official, said the electoral panel would then study the international team's findings and give political parties two days to submit any challenges. He said it could take up to two weeks to assess complaints.
Although leading politicians have expressed hopes a government could be formed in February, most experts and officials agree it could take two to three months, as it did after the election of an interim legislature last January.
In violence Saturday, gunmen killed a Shiite Muslim imam in northern Baghdad, police Maj. Falah al-Mohammadawi said. Police found the body of a man — his legs and hands bound — who had been shot in the head, Capt. Firas Qiti said.
A Marine assigned to the 2nd Marine Division "died of wounds received from small-arms fire while conducting combat operations against the enemy" Friday in Ramadi, a city in western Anbar province, the military announced. It reported no other details.
At least 2,215 U.S. military personnel have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.