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Iraqi MPs Push For U.S. Troops To Protect Elections

Iraqi policemen search civilians at a checkpoint in Ba'qubah.

Iraqi policemen search civilians at a checkpoint in Ba'qubah.

BAGHDAD -- Some Iraqi politicians are urging Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to invite U.S. forces to play an active role in helping to secure Iraq's upcoming parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Parliamentarian Serwan al-Zahawi from the Kurdish bloc told RFI that U.S. forces can help ensure safe and honest elections by providing logistical support, protection for polling stations, and ballot boxes when they are transported to counting centers.

Al-Zahawi underlined that U.S. help should not be such a sensitive issue that it would put the security of the elections at risk.

Nuraldin al-Hayali, from the Sunni bloc Al-Tawafuq, told RFI that in previous elections it was U.S. forces that secured polling centers, collected ballot boxes, helped monitor voting procedures, and was actively involved with the electoral commission in counting votes.

Al-Hayali added that joint Iraqi-U.S. teams are planned for next year's elections to ensure a free and fair vote.

Maysun al-Damaluji, of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi List, told RFI that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between Iraq and the United States provides for U.S. assistance in building up Iraq's democratic institutions.

She said the Iraqi government has already asked Americans to help monitor the elections.

In the meantime, the independent electoral commission has twice extended the deadline for political parties and movements to register for next year's elections since the number of political organizations expressing a desire to compete in the January parliamentary elections is more than in the 2005 poll, when 228 political groups took part.