updated 1/31/2005 3:52:40 AM ET 2005-01-31T08:52:40

The leader of a team of international election experts watching the Iraqi poll said the elections generally met international norms, but some unspecified legal areas need improvement.

“Certainly, as a starting point where one considers from where the Iraqi people are coming ... this is very good, this is a very good process,” Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Canada’s top election official and the chief of the U.N.-backed International Mission for Iraqi Elections, said Sunday.

Kingsley’s group of experts was based in Jordan for several reasons, including security. It was not officially observing the vote but rather assessing its organization, particularly electoral laws and the formation of Iraq’s Independent Electoral Commission and judging whether international norms have been met.

“The Iraqi elections generally meet international standards,” he said.

Officials said turnout among the 14 million eligible voters appeared higher than the 57 percent that had been predicted, although it was too soon to tell for sure.

Kingsley’s said his group will soon publish its findings in a report pointing to “some areas where we ought to have discussions, to understand better certain features of the law and order to eventually help improve it.” He declined to elaborate.

But a preliminary assessment released after polling closed Sunday said areas needing improvement included “transparency regarding financial contributions and expenditures, improvements to the voter registration process and reviewing the criteria for candidate eligibility.”

The group will review its preliminary assessments with Iraq’s electoral commission and offer suggestions for “continued strengthening of the democratic process in Iraq,” the report added.

Kingsley’s team was formed last month and its steering committee includes 12 independent electoral organizations from countries including Britain, Australia, Canada and Mexico. A small group of mission experts were in Iraq to network with members of Iraq’s electoral commission, political parties and nongovernment organizations.

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