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.