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Iraqi Officials Set Up Voting For Expatriates

An Iraqi woman dips her finger in ink as she votes in a primary election in Baghdad in October.
BAGHDAD -- Iraq officials say they have asked nearly two dozen countries, including the United States, to provide voting booths so that Iraqi expatriates can vote in next year's parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abbawi told RFI that the Iraqi government "has contacted 23 countries around the world hosting large Iraqi communities to help facilitate their vote."

Abbawi said that thus far Jordan and some European countries have responded positively to Iraq's request and others are expected to cooperate as they did for the 2005 elections.

Qassim al-Abbudi, the spokesman for Iraq's independent electoral commission, told RFI that the commission set up an office for expatriate voting even before the March 7 election date was finally set. He said preparations for helping expats to vote are under way.

Al-Abbudi added that "efforts are being made to sign memos of understanding with the 23 countries this is a question of sovereignty requiring the consent of the host countries."

In November 2004, the independent electoral commission signed an agreement with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) mandating the latter to conduct an "out-of-country voting program."

The IOM said the program enabled 280,303 Iraqis living abroad to participate in the January 2005 elections.

An estimated 2 million Iraqis have fled the country since 2003 and most of them have not returned to Iraq.