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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 October 2005, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Iraqi Shia unite to contest poll
Iraqi men look at poster of poll-winners, the United Iraqi Alliance
The Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance has a parliamentary majority
Iraq's ruling Shia-led coalition has confirmed that it will contest the upcoming parliamentary election as a single bloc.

This comes a day before the close of registration for the election in December that will end Iraq's period of transitional government.

The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) won 140 seats in the 275-member National Assembly in January's election.

It formed a coalition government with the Kurdistan Alliance in April.

Former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is also putting together an alliance, which he's said will cross sectarian and ethnic divides. It is expected to be unveiled on Saturday.

'Issues resolved'

Abbas al-Bayyati, a member of the UIA, told Qatar's al-Jazeera TV station that talks to resolve issues threatening the alliance lasted late into last night.

The successful negotiations mean the coalition can submit a single list ahead of Friday's deadline for the registration of candidates wishing to stand in the 15 December legislative elections.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani
Ayatollah Sistani is a leading player in post-Saddam Iraq

The Iraqi National Assembly and government that will result from the election will serve for four years.

Mr Bayyati said UIA members had also agreed to let the movement of radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr play a greater role.

Although Mr Sadr has three supporters in the present government, he has yet to fully join Iraq's political process.

The UIA is a broad-based coalition of over 20 groups, dominated by Shias, but also including Sunnis, Christians, Turkomans and Kurds.

The main parties in the alliance are the Shia Islamic Daawa party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Religious backing

But despite the presence of Iraq's two major Shia groups, there appears to be a doubt as to whether Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani will endorse the alliance for December's poll.

People close to the ayatollah are now saying he will withhold that support this time around.

The country's most revered Shia cleric, Ayatollah Sistani gave his quiet support to the UIA during the January election, helping to make the party the first choice of Iraq's Shia majority.

Ali al-Adib, a senior official in Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's Daawa party, admitted to the Associated Press that Ayatollah Sistani had not "yet" given his support.

The BBC's Middle East analyst, Roger Hardy, says it could make December's election a more open race.

Rivals unite

Meanwhile, the two main Kurdish parties in the Kurdistan Alliance, the UIA's partner in government, have also agreed to run on a joint ticket.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party will continue to form the backbone of the alliance.

"The Kurds will take part in the next elections putting forward the same joint list as in January which allowed them to win 76 seats," said Adnan al-Mufti, a senior PUK member.

However, the Kurdish Islamic Union led by Sheikh Salah al-Din Muhammad Baha al-Din announced it has pulled out of the alliance for the forthcoming poll and that it would enter on a separate list.

Yesterday, three Iraqi Sunni parties announced they had formed of an alliance to contest the election.

The Iraqi Peoples Gathering, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Dialogue agreed to run on one list as the Iraqi Accord Front.


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