BAGHDAD -- Initial official results from some Iraqi provinces are expected to be released from the country's March 7 parliamentary elections.
Officials from both the State Of Law coalition led by Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the rival Iraqiya secular alliance led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi have claimed their side to be leading.
According to electoral officials, 62 percent of about 19 million eligible voters took part in Iraq's second election for a full four-year parliamentary term since Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
In the last such election, in December 2005, roughly 76 percent of eligible voters took part.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, called the election a milestone and said he believes U.S. troops remain on track to complete their pullout from Iraq by the end of 2011 as planned.
At the United Nations, the 15 member nations of the Security Council issued a statement hailing the elections as an "important step" toward strengthening Iraqi national unity, sovereignty, and independence.
The statement also condemned the series of bomb, mortar, and rocket attacks that killed at least 36 people on election day, saying that no "terrorist" act will be able to reverse Iraq's path toward peace, democracy and reconstruction.
compiled from agency reports