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Iraq orders vehicle ban fearing election anger

An Iraqi military official says authorities have ordered a nighttime vehicle ban across the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar after tribal leaders claimed fraud in last weekend's provincial election.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Iraq's military Monday ordered a nighttime vehicle ban across a once-violent Sunni-dominated province after tribal leaders their claimed fraud in last weekend's provincial election, an official said.

The official says the Anbar tribal leaders who turned against al-Qaida two years ago were angry because they believed the results of the Saturday ballot have been manipulated to favor Sunni rivals from the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is part of the national government in Baghdad.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Dispute threatens stability
He said the ban would take effect late Monday night and end early Tuesday morning.

The dispute threatens stability in a province that had been center-stage in the Sunni insurgency until tribes there turned against al-Qaida. Those tribes believe they deserve political power in the province because of their contribution to turning the tide of the war.

The claims emerged as election officials were still counting ballots from Saturday's election, in which voters in 14 of the 18 provinces chose ruling provincial councils. An election commission official said it would take two or three more days to complete the count.

Some partial and unofficial results leaked to Iraqi media suggest the public turned away from religious parties widely blamed for stoking sectarian tension.

Those religious parties include the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the biggest Shiite group, which maintains links to both Iran and the U.S.

On Monday, however, the leader of the Council, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, disputed claims of a major setback, saying his party was leading in 11 of the 14 provinces where voting occurred.

"The Supreme Council is still a key player in the Iraqi arena, a role it has played since the struggle to rebuild the new Iraq with all of its challenges and complexities," al-Hakim said in a written statement.

Modest turnout blamed
Al-Hakim did not cite any figures or mention the provinces where his party was leading.

He blamed a modest turnout — 51 percent according to the election commission — on an election day vehicle ban that forced voters to walk long distances to their polling stations.

Mohammed al-Amjad, spokesman for Iraq's electoral commission, said it would take two or three more days to complete the count because of delays in transporting ballots to Baghdad.

He said no ballots had been received from four provinces, which he did not identify.

Al-Amjad also said no complaints of election violations have been received from political parties. They have until Tuesday to file complaints.

The elections took place without serious violence and were hailed as a major achievement by Iraqi officials seeking a return to stability nearly six years after the U.S.-led invasion.

On Monday, though, a roadside bomb targeted an American convoy, said an Iraqi police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information.

Two people were killed and six others were wounded, the officer said. There were no reported American causalities.