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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 January, 2005, 03:00 GMT
Iraq exile vote runs into trouble
Workers at Baghdad International Airport unload boxes of ballots, 19 January
Iraqi authorities insist the election will go ahead despite the violence
Iraqis living abroad are being given more time to register in the country's election because of a low turnout.

The International Organization for Migration, which is organising voting in 14 countries, said registration would be extended for two days.

By Thursday, the fourth day of registration, fewer than one in 10 Iraqis had registered abroad, out of more than a million eligible voters.

In Iraq, new security measures have been announced for the 30 January poll.

In other developments:

  • The Ansar al-Sunna group says it has executed 15 Iraqi national guards who were kidnapped last week

  • A militant group says it has kidnapped a Brazilian man in an attack on a US firm in Iraq, Arab television station al-Jazeera reports

  • Eight Chinese hostages taken hostage in Iraq have been released, the Chinese embassy in Baghdad says

  • At least six Iraqi soldiers are injured in a car bomb near Hilla, south of Baghdad.

  • A US soldier in sentenced by a military court to three years in jail over the killing of an Iraqi woman translator in November

Rules relaxed

Registration for Iraqi exiles and expatriates had been due to end on Sunday, but is now being extended until Tuesday.

The IOM said registration rules were also being eased. An Iraqi passport will now be accepted as identification, instead of the two documents demanded previously.

IRAQ'S OVERSEAS POLLS
Syria: 500,000
Jordan: 360,000
US: 313,000
UK: 250,000
Iran: 134,137
UAE: 100,000
Sweden: 91,600
Germany: 75,000
Australia: 75,000
Netherlands: 44,000
Turkey: 40,000
Canada: 36,000
Denmark: 26,000
France: 8,000
Number of Iraqis living in 14 nations where voting is to be held
(Source: IOM)
This week, the head of the Jordan-based programme for registering expatriate Iraqi voters, Peter Erben, told the BBC News website there could be several factors why so few had come forward.

They included the requirement for people to attend polling stations twice, once to register and then to vote - inconvenient for those who have long distances to travel.

The absentee voting will take place as planned on 28-30 January, the IOM said.

In Iraq, the interim government has given more details about the security arrangements for the election, amid fears that insurgents will try to disrupt the poll.

New restrictions

Baghdad's airport is to be closed for two days and overnight curfews in certain cities will be expanded, interim Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said.

The movement of pedestrians and cars close to polling stations will also be restricted, and non-official cars will be prevented from travelling between Iraq's 18 provinces.

On Friday, Iraq's interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, said it would be impossible to provide full security for the vote.

However, Mr Naqib said the authorities were doing their best to ensure a peaceful vote.

"All of our security forces have been put on alert to face any terrorist attacks targeting these elections," Mr Naqib told reporters, confirming that security forces would be paid special bonuses.

The Iraqi interior minister said 29, 30 and 31 January would be public holidays, during which many areas would hold curfews from 2000 to 0600 (1700 GMT - 0300 GMT).

People will be barred from carrying weapons during that period, Mr Naqib said.

Iraq had already announced plans to close its land borders for three days, except for pilgrims returning from the Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Exiled Iraqis encouraged to participate in poll



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