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Iraqi Election Officials Begin Manual Recount Of May Vote

Iraqi election officials have begun a manual recount of ballots from the May parliamentary elections, an effort aimed at ending tensions over alleged fraud and irregularities.

Officials began the process in the northern city of Kirkuk, with state TV showing dozens of ballot boxes lined up at a covered sports hall as election workers counted ballots.

Initial results from the May 12 vote gave the bloc headed by the Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr the largest share of seats in the 329-seat parliament.

An Iranian-backed bloc was second, and Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi's alliance was third.

The fraud allegations and other problems have been largely blamed on electronic voting machines, which were supposed to help count ballots more quickly.

The vote was the fourth since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, and saw the lowest voter turnout in 15 years due to widespread anger at the country's politics.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP