12/10/2004, 00.00
IRAQ
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Final date to submit list of candidates delayed

Ulemas condemn attacks against churches but think Sunnis won't vote. Prime Minister Allawi denies he wants staggered poll. Al-Sadr is not on al-Sistani's list.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iraq's electoral commission postponed till December 15 the deadline for parties to submit their list of candidates for the January 30 poll. United Nations spokesman Fred Eckhard said that so far 5,000 candidates have been registered representing over 200 parties.

Sheik Mohamed Bashar al-Faidhi, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars (Ulemas) which had already called for a boycott of the elections, confirmed that the Islamic Party "refuses to participate in the elections" to protest military operations in Sunni areas. This, he said, in no way contradicts the decision taken by the party to run in the election since "it is a party that has taken part in the political process from the beginning".

The Association of Muslim Scholars firmly condemned the attacks against Mosul churches which it called 'criminal' insisting that neither Iraqis nor 'God-loving Muslims' could have done it. Only those who seek to divide the Iraqi people and serve the interests of the occupiers would do so.

The Shiite majority is instead bent on voting. The United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition that includes two major Shiite political parties—the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Dawa Party—brought together by grand ayatollah al-Sistani, presented its list of candidates.

The coalition "contains parties and political currents as well as independent figures of different confessions and ethnic groups and takes into consideration the demographic and geographic balance in Iraq," Dawa's Ali Adib said.

The 228-strong list excludes firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. In the absence of explanations or statements by the young religious leader and by Shiite leader al-Sistani, contrasting rumours claim either that, despite what he had said before, al-Sadr decided against running, or al-Sistani vetoed his presence in the Shiite coalition.

In the meantime, a spokesman for Prime Minister Allawi this morning called false and incorrect reports that he wanted elections to be staggered over two or three weeks starting on January 30 to improve security conditions.

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