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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 November, 2004, 19:59 GMT
Iraqis abroad 'will get a vote'
Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi
Iyad Allawi is about to hold talks in Europe
Some Iraqis living abroad will be allowed to vote in January's election, organisers have said.

The Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission said the decision would bring more "freedom, transparency and objectivity" to the process.

There has been a long debate over whether the estimated four million Iraqis overseas should be able to vote.

The announcement came as the EU released details of an aid package to support the election process.

The union said it would provide $40m to help train election observers, register voters, promote the participation of women, and fund the electoral commission.

The EU will send experts to work with UN and Iraqi elections officials, it said.

Some excluded

The decision to allow Iraqis abroad to vote was announced on Thursday.

"The Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission took a historic decision to allow Iraqis outside Iraq to participate in the electoral process," commission spokesman Farid Ayar.

"This decision will bring more freedom, transparency and objectivity to the electoral process through the participation of Iraq's intellectual elite in the first democratic elections to take place in Iraq for half a century."

Officials said only those living in countries with large Iraqi communities would be able to vote, but did not say how the process would work.

Millions of Iraqis left the country during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is due on Friday to join a meeting of European leaders in Brussels - with aid to rebuild Iraq high on the agenda.

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