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Expatriate Registration Slow As Iraq Nears Elections

24 January 2005 -- The UN's International Organization for Migration has said that with just two days left to sign up, fewer than one in four of the estimated 1 million Iraqi expatriates eligible to vote in Iraq's 30 January election have registered.

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, in charge of registration, said that by 23 January, the seventh day of the process, 237,704 had registered.

The IOM has extended the registration period until 25 January at 74 registration centers in 14 countries in the hope of signing up more voters.

The highest number of expatriate registered voters, 48,010, is in Shi'te Muslim Iran. Shi'ite religious and political leaders have urged Iraqis to vote. Many Sunni leaders, seemingly fearful of domination by the Shi'ite majority in Iraq, have called for a boycott.

In the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Arab candidates pulled out today to protest a government decision to permit displaced Kurds to vote in the province. Kurds had threatened to boycott the elections unless returning Kurdish refugees were allowed to vote there.

In Brussels today, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said it will be difficult for most Sunnis to vote in Iraq. But he said it will be a "disaster" for the country if it has no Sunni representation following the January balloting.


Related stories:

"EU Warns Of Sunni Boycott 'Disaster' In Iraq"

"Iraq: What Would A Shi'a Win Mean For Mideast?"

"Iraqi Vice President Says Stability Can Only Come From Elections"

"Al-Zarqawi Group Claims Credit For Iraq Attack"

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