Allawi to start coalition talks after slim win over Iraq PM

BAGHDAD, March 27, (AFP)- Former premier Iyad Allawi was to begin talks on Saturday to form a government after his bloc edged out incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition in declared results from Iraq's election.

Iyad Allawi, a former prime minister and head of the secular Iraqiya coalition, greets his supporters in Baghdad March 26. - Reuterr

Allawi's secular Iraqiya list won two seats more than the State of Law Alliance led by Maliki, a fellow Shiite. But Iraqiya failed to clinch an overall majority in the Iraqi parliament, with Allawi vowing after the results to “work with all sides” to form a government.

Maliki, however, refused to accept the results, telling a press conference in Baghdad following the release of the official figures on Friday that they remained “preliminary”.

“The election results are not final,” said the prime minister, who has previously called for a nationwide manual recount of votes, alleging irregularities in the counting process.

Security officials have warned a long period of coalition building could give insurgents and Al-Qaeda a chance to further destabilise Iraq, with deadly bomb attacks northeast of Baghdad on Friday illustrating their concerns.

The results were announced shortly after twin bomb attacks in the central town of Khales killed 42 people and left 65 others wounded, according to security and medical sources. The US ambassador to Baghdad and the top American military commander in Iraq, in a joint statement, gave their blessing to the outcome.

“We support the findings of international and independent Iraqi observers, who ... have found that there is no evidence of widespread or serious fraud,”said Ambassador Christopher Hill and General Ray Odierno.
The results come around five months before the United States is due to withdraw all of its combat troops from Iraq, and Washington will be keen to see a smooth outcome from the election.

“We will work with all sides, whether they won or did not win in the election, to form the next government,” Allawi said in a television interview immediately after the results were announced.

In a separate interview, he later vowed: “Iraqiya will open its heart to all political forces and all those who want to build Iraq, and we will together bury political sectarianism.”Fireworks were set off and celebratory gunfire was heard in central Baghdad as car drivers, some with Iraqi flags protruding from the windows, honked their horns at crossroads after the figures were published.

At Iraqiya's political headquarters on Zaitun street in central Baghdad, supporters jubilantly tooted horns and greeted Allawi upon his arrival by shouting his name in unison.

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