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Election Campaign Kicks Off In Iraq

Iraqis will elect a National Assembly to replace the interim body (file photo) 15 December 2004 -- Campaigning for Iraq's 30 January elections officially began today.

Parties and coalitions must by today submit their lists of candidates to participate in the nationwide poll to select a 275-seat National Assembly, which will draft a permanent constitution and appoint a new government.

Reuters news agency quoted election officials as saying 79 parties and blocs -- 70 parties and nine coalitions -- have presented their slates for the poll so far.

They include a Sunni Muslim grouping, the Iraqi Islamic Party, as well as a joint list put foward by leading figures from Iraq's Shi'a Muslim majority.

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is expected to present a list, and Kurds, secularists, and others are also expected to participate.

The U.S. military today reported the deaths of two more U.S. soldiers in Iraq -- one in a shooting incident south of Baghdad, the other in Anbar Province, which contains the cities of Al-Fallujah and Al-Ramadi.

In other news, lawyers for ousted dictator Saddam Hussein have objected to plans by the interim Iraqi authorities to start trials next week of some captured figures from Hussein's regime.

A spokesman for Hussein's team, Ziad Khassawhen, said defense attorneys have not had time to consult with the defendants and that any court proceedings under such conditions would be seen as political show trials.

Hussein himself is not expected to appear in court next week.


[For the latest news on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".]

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