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EU Expresses Concerns About Iraq Elections


http://gdb.rferl.org/A0538564-3D06-4721-B70C-0C591EADAE56_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/A0538564-3D06-4721-B70C-0C591EADAE56_mw800_mh600.jpg 25 January 2005 -- The European Union has joined Iraqi officials in expressing concerns about national elections slated for 30 January in Iraq.

In Brussels yesterday, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said it would be a "disaster" if boycotts called for by some Sunni leaders or intimidation keep Iraqi Sunnis from the polls.

In Baghdad, Iraqi Planning Minister Mehdi al-Hafedh also expressed concerns. He said "national reconciliation" will be needed after the election.

"The national interest requires the adoption of a strategy for national reconciliation for the post-elections period," al-Hafedh said. "Under such a strategy, it is very important to include all elements who believe in a new democratic experience in Iraq."

The statements come as Iraqis living outside the country are facing a deadline today to register to vote. Yesterday, UN officials said fewer than 25 percent of the estimated 1 million eligible Iraqi expatriates had registered for the poll, despite a two-day extension of the registration deadline in 14 countries.

U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Erv Lessel, deputy director of operations in Iraq, told CNN television that there has been a 50 percent drop in attacks by insurgents in recent days. But he described the lull as "a calm before the storm," and predicted insurgents are planning something "spectacular."

(Reuters/AP/AFP/dpa)

For news, background, and analysis on Iraq's historic 30 January elections, see RFE/RL's "Iraq Votes 2005" webpage.
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