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Lithuania to cut troops in Iraq by half
President Jalal bids to solve election dispute
12/25/2005
 

          BAGHDAD, Dec 24 (AFP): Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was attempting Saturday to resolve a growing political row set off by contested general election results, amid fears the dispute could fuel the insurgency.
A meeting of top leaders was underway Saturday morning, his office said, giving no details.
Some two dozens parties, including the main Sunni Arab coalition, Thursday called for a re-run of the December 15 elections because of alleged fraud. Elements from the Sunni Arab minority, dominant under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, are seen as the backbone behind the insurgency.
Electoral commission official Adel al-Lami Saturday said the commission was investigating some 1,500 complaints, but he appeared to rule out any large-scale new polling.
"If need be voting can be repeated in small areas, but there is no evidence until now this will be required," he said.
Complaints concerned no more than 5 per cent of the total of some 10 million votes cast, he added.
Early results suggest Shiite-based religious parties, dominant in the outgoing government, will have a commanding position in the next parliament.
Final results are not expected before January.
Talabani, a Kurd, said Friday he was trying to foster "a government of national unity" by convening talks amongst various political factions.
On Friday, several thousand people took to the streets in several mainly Sunni towns to protest alleged ballot-rigging.
Jawad al-Maliki, a Shiite Alliance leader, Saturday ruled out any election re-run.
Xinhua from Riga adds : Lithuania will withdraw half of its 100 troops from Iraq by January, reports from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius said Friday. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis and Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said in a joint statement that the Lithuanian government made the decision in view of the improving political and economic climate in Iraq and the strengthening Iraqi security forces.
In the wake of the Dec. 15 general election, the Iraqis are able to shoulder more responsibilities in controlling the situation in their country, said the statement.
As the Iraqi security forces are increasingly strengthened, the mission of foreign troops is shifting to training Iraqi soldiers, it said.

 

BALAD RUZ: Shiite women grieve as the coffins of several killed relatives are driven away for burial to the southern holy city of Najaf Saturday. AFP Photo
 
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