Sat, Jan 21, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Shiites fall 10 short of a majority

RESULTS OUT As predicted, the Iraq election results followed along ethnic lines, with the Shiite majority gaining the most seats in results released late yesterday


The final results of Iraq's Dec. 15 election gave the Shiite Islamist Alliance 128 seats, 10 short of a majority in the 275-seat chamber, an Electoral Commission official told a news conference yesterday.

The results, in line with expectations and earlier counts, gave the Kurdish bloc 53 seats and former prime minister Iyad Allawi's secular list 25, with two main Sunni Arab groups, the Accordance Front and the National Dialogue Front, securing 44 and 11 places respectively, Safwat Rasheed said.

Parties have two days to appeal before the results are certified as definitive.

Some Sunni Arab and secular parties have complained of vote-rigging in the poll, but international monitors brought in to address the complaints gave the election process a mostly clean bill of health in a report on Thursday, clearing the way for the results to be released.

Many Sunni leaders are already discussing places in a new coalition government.

The results were released amid tight security -- police blocked off roads between Baghdad and the restive provinces of Anbar, Salahaddin and Diyala, heartlands of Sunni Arab rebels.

Meanwhile, as a deadline neared for hostage Jill Carroll, Muslim leaders and her pleading mother appealed on Thursday to kidnappers to spare her life and set her free.

Referring to demands from Carroll's abductors that Iraqi women be released from US custody, a senior Iraqi official said six jailed Iraqi women were due to be freed by the US military.

But the White House said that no prisoner release appeared imminent, and a major Sunni Arab clerical group said it could do little to help because it did not know who was holding the 28-year-old reporter.

The kidnappers -- identified as the previously unknown ``Revenge Brigade'' -- have set a deadline of Friday evening for all Iraqi female detainees to be freed or they will kill Carroll. However, Iraqi kidnappers have often given such ultimatums only to ignore them and continue holding captives.

New images showing Carroll surrounded by three armed and masked gunmen were aired on Thursday by al-Jazeera television. The 20 seconds of silent footage were from the same tape as excerpts broadcast on Tuesday announcing the 72-hour deadline.

Carroll's mother said the video images gave her hope her daughter is alive but also have ``shaken us about her fate.''

``I, her father and her sister are appealing directly to her captors to release this woman who has worked so hard to show the sufferings of Iraqis to the world,'' Mary Beth Carroll told CNN's ``American Morning.''

Iraq's deputy justice minister, Busho Ibrahim Ali, said six of the eight Iraqi women in custody are expected to be freed next week, but he stressed that any release would ``not be part of any swap with any kidnappers.''

``I insisted that the Americans should bring [the women's] files and release them and they will be freed next week along with other detainees,'' Ali said. He did not elaborate on who the others were, but said the recommendation to free the women was made Monday.

Speculation that the Iraqi women might soon be freed raised hopes for the release of Carroll.

US military officials repeatedly refused on Thursday to confirm whether any release was imminent. In Washington, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the Bush administration was working hard to secure Carroll's freedom but said no Iraqi detainees were expected to be released soon.

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