Iraqi officials have begun a recount of some 2.5 million ballots cast in Baghdad in the country's recent parliamentary elections.
The recount was requested by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who alleged violations in polling stations in the Iraqi capital.
Maliki requested the manual recount after results still to be ratified by the Supreme Court showed his bloc narrowly lost the March 7 vote.
The results showed that the secular Al-Iraqiyah bloc of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi won two more seats than Maliki's Shi'ite State of Law coalition. Neither got enough seats to govern alone.
Baghdad accounts for about one-fifth of the 325 seats in parliament.
"According to the judicial panel's decision to recount votes in Baghdad, the electoral commission starts this work today," a spokesman for the election commission, Qasim al-Abudi, told reporters. "This work is not easy because it needs big efforts and, as you see, a huge numbers of employees have been taken from city offices, the national center, and the registration center, and have been trained to do this job."
Election officials have said the manual recount could take between two to three weeks. Officials from the United Nations and the U.S. Embassy are monitoring the recount.
Even as the recount began today, Maliki's party lodged a complaint over the way it was being conducted that could further delay the process.
Allawi's narrow lead is also threatened by a judicial panel's attempt to disqualify candidates, including one winning candidate from his party, for alleged links to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Ba'ath Party.
Challenges to the election results have raised concerns about a possible increase in violence.
compiled from agency reports