Ten Percent of Iraqi-Americans Registered

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Less than 25 percent of eligible Iraqi expatriates have signed up to vote in Sunday's elections, officials said Tuesday, the last day for overseas registration.

In the United States, registration is running at about 10 percent.

International figures from the first eight days of registration — excluding Tuesday — showed that more than 255,600 Iraqis signed up for the vote, according to the International Organization for Migration (search). The Geneva-based body is handling voter registration outside Iraq.

"You have to see the positive side," IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy told The Associated Press. "More than a quarter of a million have made the effort to go and register to vote."

The U.N.-affiliated IOM said it expected registration numbers to increase as the deadline approaches.

"It's important to bear in mind that there is still a full day's registration ahead," Chauzy said. "People will turn up for the last day of registration."

Registration was originally scheduled to end Sunday but was extended until Tuesday evening because of low turnout during the first five days.

In Baghdad, the Iraqi Electoral Commission said Tuesday that registration totaled 255,611 so far. That included 53,145 in Iran; 29,301 in Sweden; 29,121 in Britain; 24,825 in Germany; and 23,915 in the United States.

An estimated 234,000 Iraqi expatriates can register at sites in five U.S. cities: Chicago; Detroit; Los Angeles; Nashville, Tenn.; and Washington.

Commission spokesman Farid Ayar said the IOM figures were skewed because the organization was using estimates for the numbers of expatriates.

"Many Iraqis left the country during the previous regime and we did not have time to gain very accurate numbers regarding the Iraqis abroad," Ayar said.

Another reason for low registration was that some countries, notably Turkey, had demanded that Iraqis present permanent residence papers "and some Iraqis do not have such documents," he said.

To register, Iraqis have to document their identity, Iraqi nationality and birth on or before Dec. 31, 1986. Registrants must return to the same location to vote.

Iraq's 14 million eligible voters will cast ballots at 5,220 polling centers, choosing a 275-member National Assembly and provincial legislatures. The National Assembly will then appoint a new government.