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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 14:49 GMT
Sunnis say Iraq poll illegitimate
Mohammed Bashar al-Faidi, spokesman of the Association of Muslim Scholars, Baghdad, Iraq
Clerics had urged Sunnis to boycott Sunday's poll
A leading group of Iraqi Sunni clerics have said the country's landmark election lacks legitimacy as so many Sunnis did not take part in the vote.

The clerics had encouraged Sunnis to boycott the elections because of the presence of US and foreign troops.

The US and Iraqi authorities, as well as the United Nations, have hailed the election as a "victory for democracy".

But the Association of Muslim Scholars says any government elected in the poll will not reflect the people's will.

"These elections lack legitimacy because a large segment of different sects, parties and currents with their influence in Iraq boycotted," the association said in a statement.

"This necessarily means the coming national assembly and government that will emerge from it will not possess the legitimacy to enable them to draft the coming constitution," it said.

The group said whilst it would respect the choice of Iraqis who had chosen to vote, it would regard the new government as having only limited powers.

Ballot shortage

As election officials were compiling the final poll results and checking tallies, Iraqi officials admitted that there was a shortage of ballot papers in some cities with a large Sunni population including Baghdad, Basra and Mosul.

Results due in around 10 days
Early March: PM appointed
Late March: Government formed
15 August: Draft constitution (six-month extension possible)
15 October: Possible referendum on constitution
By 15 December: Elections for government

The curfew imposed across many parts of the country has been eased and other security measures relaxed.

But, after a brief respite following Sunday's elections, violence has continued across the country with insurgents blowing up an oil pipeline in the central Sunni city of Samarra.

In Baghdad, three roadside bombs have exploded over the past 24 hours and another has been blown up in the Kurdish city of Irbil.

In Iraq's third largest city, Mosul, the chief of police has given insurgents an ultimatum, warning that unless they hand over weapons within two weeks, they face a crackdown.

The BBC's Paul Wood in Baghdad says the warning can be seen as sign of a new resolve to pursue the insurgents on the part of security forces, soon to be backed by an elected government.

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