Iraq Shiites Form Election Coalition

A Shiite official Thursday announced a coalition of 228 candidates backed by leading Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (search) for Iraq's Jan. 30 elections.

The coalition, called the United Iraqi Alliance (search), includes two major Shiite political parties — the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Dawa Party — and the Iraqi National Congress, led by former exile and one-time Pentagon favorite Ahmad Chalabi (search), Dawa party official Ali al-Adeeb told a news conference.

Also on the list were independent Sunni Muslims and Kurds.

Al-Sistani, an Iranian-born cleric, has been working to unite Iraq's majority Shiites ahead of the vote to ensure victory, as well as include representatives from Iraq's other diverse communities.

He has been overseeing the work of top aides to compile the list for the national elections, which Shiite parties are expected to perform strongly in.

Shiites comprise 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million population. Despite their numbers, they've enjoyed little political power in Iraq, particularly under deposed leader Saddam Hussein, who belonged to Iraq's minority Sunni community.