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Iraq's Sunni Clerics Call Election Illegitimate - 2005-02-02


Iraq's Sunni Muslim clerics say Sunday's national elections lacked legitimacy because of low Sunni voter turnout.

As the vote counting continued today (Wednesday), the influential Association of Muslim Scholars said it would respect the choice of those who voted, but would consider the new government a transitional one with limited powers.

The new government is in fact a transitional one, with a one-year mandate. However, the Sunni clerics said they believe it will lack the authority to complete its main task -- the drafting of a new constitution.

Iraqi election officials have acknowledged voting problems in some Sunni areas where polling stations did not open or there was a shortage of ballots. But Shi'ite Muslim leaders, who represent Iraq's majority, have repeatedly promised that Sunnis would have a voice in the new government.

Meanwhile, the relative calm of the last few days faded today as insurgents killed at least five people and blew up an oil pipeline.

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations is calling for the lifting of all remaining sanctions imposed on the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein.

Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie made the appeal Tuesday -- two days after his country voted in landmark elections.

He said all sanctions placed on the previous regime are inappropriate now since Iraq has clearly shown the world that it is a new country and wants to be at peace with its neighbors.

The Iraqi diplomat said it is also time to begin phasing out the use of oil proceeds to compensate victims of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and lift the arms embargo imposed shortly after that invasion.

Meanwhile, more than 200 workers at Iraq's election headquarters in Baghdad are compiling results from Sunday's historic vote.

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