Page last updated at 11:44 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

More names on Iraq election ban

Iraqi woman reads newspaper
An Iraqi woman looks at a leaked list of candidates banned from running

Iraq's election commission chief has said more candidates are likely to be banned from running in parliamentary elections on 7 March.

A committee has already barred more than 500 candidates.

Commission chief Faraj al-Haidari said the number of Sunni and Shia candidates on the list is roughly equal.

The disqualifications have caused a political storm. US Vice-President Joe Biden is set to arrive in Iraq to try and ease tensions.

Mr Haidari said the additional names could include people with criminal records and former military personnel who allegedly used forged documents.

On Thursday Iraq's President Jalal Talabani asked the country's Supreme Court to decide whether the disqualifications were legal, as they have not been approved by parliament.

The decision was made by the Accountability and Justice Commission, a body responsible for ensuring the Baath party, once led by Saddam Hussein, does not make a comeback in Iraqi politics.

Some candidates have been banned for alleged ties to the Baath party.

An official list of those barred has not been published but leaked reports suggest it includes several prominent Sunni Arab politicians.

Some question the motive for the disqualifications and fear it will stoke up sectarian tensions. Many Sunni Arabs boycotted the last parliamentary election in 2005.

The 7 March election is regarded as a crucial test for Iraq's national reconciliation process and ahead of a planned US military withdrawal in stages.

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