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Iraq Transition

President: Thousands turned away

U.S. military says camp riot started during routine search

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- As ballots began arriving in Iraq's capital Tuesday, interim President Ghazi al-Yawar praised the bravery of Iraqi voters, noting that many had to be turned away from voting stations Sunday.

"Tens of thousands were not able to cast their votes because of the lack of ballots in Basra, Baghdad [and] Najaf," al-Yawar said.

He said ballots also ran out in the northern city of Mosul, but election workers were able to supply the province with more.

Despite the problems, "these elections in general were successful," al-Yawar said.

"Any elections which include half of the eligible voters should be considered a successful process," he said.

Al-Yawar said he expects the number of foreign troops in Iraq will decrease by the year's end.

In a separate news conference, Iraq's interim Defense Minister Hazem Sha'alan warned against an immediate pullout of U.S. forces.

"The departure of the American forces is a big mistake. They cannot now leave Iraq," Sha'alan said. "They will leave Iraq when security is provided, when there are security forces to protect citizens.

"We don't want foreign troops in our country, but they should stay until we are able to control borders and establish new and modern army and have efficient intelligence.

"At that time we will tell them Iraqi army is now capable and we will ask them to leave."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that U.S. troops would remain in Iraq until the country's forces are capable of carrying out their own security functions. (Full story)

In Baquba, election workers Tuesday continued to count and sort ballots before they are taken to the Iraqi capital for a final, overall tally.

The election results are not expected until the middle of next week.

Election officials estimate 300,000 out of 700,000 eligible voters in Baquba -- some 40 percent -- cast their ballots in the predominantly Sunni city, where many Sunni Muslims received a special exemption from a boycott on the election.

The name of the leading Sunni candidate, the governor of Diyala province, was left off the ballot. That added to concerns that Arab Sunnis, who make up about 20 percent of the country's population, will be under-represented in the 275-member transitional national assembly. (Timeline)

The assembly will draft a new constitution and pick the country's next president and two vice presidents. The president will select a prime minister. (Structure)

Shiite Muslims, who make up the majority of the population and were oppressed under Saddam Hussein's regime, held mass celebrations Monday.

Voters also elected members of 18 provincial councils, and Kurds in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region chose a Kurdish parliament.

Iraq's election officials will not release any election results until the final tally has been assessed and confirmed with local officials, said Hamdia Hussaini of the Independent Election Commission of Iraq.

"It is a long and thorough process," Hussaini said.

Riot put down

A deadly riot in one of the compounds at a prison camp in southern Iraq apparently erupted from a routine search for contraband, a U.S. military spokesman said Tuesday. (Full story)

U.S. troops opened fire Monday to put down the riot at Camp Bucca, military officials said. Four inmates died and six were wounded in the melee, officials said.

Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said the search was "standard procedure."

"What raised the tensions is still undetermined," he said, adding that while the camp was at full capacity, it wasn't clear if that had anything to do with the riot.

"There is a full scale investigation under way by the chain of command and the criminal investigative unit," Johnson said. "We cannot determine how long it will take for the investigation to be complete."

Johnson said "the compound leadership" -- detainees appointed by military officials with some input from other detainees -- "seem to have calmed down and are engaged in conversation [with] the investigative teams."

In a statement released Monday, the military said the dead and wounded were the result both of gunfire and "violence by other detainees within the camp."

Camp Bucca, south of Basra near the Kuwait border, houses about 5,300 prisoners. More than 2,900 of those were housed in the compounds affected by the rioting, the military said.

Other developments

  • A bomb exploded Tuesday in the northern Iraqi town of Erbil near the home of a top Kurdish political official, killing two guards who noticed the bomb and went to remove it, a representative from Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said. The blast occurred around 9 a.m. (1 a.m. ET) outside the residence of the PUK's Adnan Mofti. He was injured just over a year ago in nearly simultaneous suicide attacks on PUK and Kurdistan Democratic Party.
  • A photograph posted on an Islamist Web site appears to be that of an action figure and not a U.S. soldier being held hostage. Liam Cusack, the marketing coordinator for Dragon Models USA, said the figure pictured on the Web site is believed to be "Special Ops Cody," a military action figure the company manufactured in late 2003. (Full story)

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