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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 December, 2004, 17:17 GMT
Iraqi Shias unveil poll coalition
Shia political representatives announce the grand coalition
Iraq's Shias have usually been excluded from political power
Representatives of Iraq's majority Shia community have announced a broad-based coalition of 22 political parties to run in national elections in January.

The coalition, backed by leading Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani, presented a list of 228 candidates under the United Iraqi Alliance banner.

Shias make up about 60% of the population but they have never enjoyed significant political power in Iraq.

Under Saddam Hussein, the country was dominated by Sunni Muslims.

A spokesman for the committee that drew up the list said the movement led by radical cleric Moqtada Sadr was not included because it had not registered.

But he added that the Sadrist movement supported the religious authorities and their call for Iraqis to hold elections.

Last Wednesday, Iraq's two main Kurdish parties agreed to form a single candidate list.

The minority Sunni community has not presented a list of candidates. Sunni clerics from the Association of Muslim Scholars have urged Sunnis to boycott the election in protest against the US-led attack on the city of Falluja.

There are fears that the vote will be disrupted by the largely Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

The rebels target US-led occupation forces in Iraq and anyone they view as collaborators - including Iraqi government troops and the civil authorities.


Islamic Daawa party official Ali Adib told a Baghdad news conference that the Shia-backed slate of candidates included members of the Daawa party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution and the Iraqi National Congress.

scheduled for 30 Jan
voters to elect 275-member transitional assembly
Kurds also to pick 111-member autonomous parliament
campaigning begins 15 Dec
more than 200 parties running
proportional representation based on party lists
every third candidate on party lists must be a woman
militias, ex-top Baathists and current army officials barred
balloting to take place in some 9,000 polling stations

The list also contained Sunnis, Yazidis, and Shia Kurds, he added.

"It contains parties and political currents, as well as independent figures of different confessions and ethnic groups, and takes into consideration the demographic and geographic balance in Iraq," said Mr Adib.

Iraqis are to elect 275 members of a national assembly in the 30 January poll.

Ayatollah Sistani is one of the most powerful and popular figures in the country, and correspondents say any list endorsed by him should stand a good chance in the polls.

Meanwhile, a spokesman from interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's office has denied a media report that the elections might be spread over several weeks to improve security conditions.

"These reports are false and inaccurate," said the spokesman, adding that Mr Allawi was misquoted by a Swiss newspaper.

Iraq prepares for democratic elections in January


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