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Iraq officials: Shiite-led alliance wins election

No bloc has clear majority; parties must form ruling coalition

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Safwat Rasheed of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq announces vote results Friday.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's most powerful Shiite Muslim alliance, led by religious parties, won the most seats but not a clear majority in the nation's first constitutional parliament, election officials said Friday.

Of 275 seats in the Council of Representatives, the United Iraqi Alliance won 128 seats in the December 15 election, while the Kurdish bloc of candidates was second with 53, based on final, uncertified results.

The United Iraqi Alliance includes the Dawa Party led by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

The alliance fell 10 votes short of an absolute majority.

Shiites make up about 60 percent of the estimated 25 million Iraqis, and the Kurds about 20 percent. Both suffered under the rule of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni.

Two separate Sunni blocs garnered 44 and 11 seats in the election, officials said. Two smaller Sunni Arab-affiliated groups won four seats.

The parties will begin jockeying to form a government to rule the council, Iraq's first parliament under its new constitution.

A ruling coalition must have a two-thirds majority to choose a presidency council, which will select a prime minister and other Cabinet ministers.

The tallies suggest that more Sunnis took part in the December vote after boycotting earlier elections. Minority Sunnis -- who held power under Saddam -- make up about 20 percent of the population and are blamed for much of the insurgency.

One U.S. military commander, Army Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner II, said the election results bode well in the fight against insurgents.

"If the Sunnis are enfranchised and begin participating in the political process ... as we think they are beginning to do, I would suspect it would be the foreign fighters ... that would probably be the greatest threat that needs to be dealt with right now," Turner said.

On Thursday, a report by international monitors ruled that the election was fair despite voting irregularities.

Election officials on Friday said votes from 296 ballot boxes throughout the country were excluded from the total due to irregularities.

Many Sunni Arabs complained of fraud and intimidation after the election, spurring the review by the International Mission for Iraqi Elections, a Canadian-based group.

The two parties that fared best in this election failed to win as many seats as they had in the January 2005 vote.

The United Iraqi Alliance captured 146 seats in January 2005, while the Kurdish alliance won 75. They formed a ruling coalition for the transitional government.

In the December election, among the Sunnis, the Iraqi Accord Front won 44 seats, and a coalition led by Saleh al-Mutlag, a prominent politician, took 11.

Last year the Sunnis had 17 seats in parliament.

The ticket of former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi received 25 seats this time. Allawi is a secular Shiite who heads a coalition that shunned sectarianism.

Five seats were won by a small Kurdish grouping, two seats by a small Shiite list of candidates and one seat each gained by Turkmen, Christian and Yazidi lists.

The list of candidates led by controversial former exile Ahmed Chalabi did not win any seats, election officials said. Chalabi, a onetime Pentagon favorite, has had a rocky relationship with the United States since the war began.

Father pleads for daughter's life

The father of kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll, whose abductors have threatened to kill her if the U.S. doesn't release all its female Iraqi prisoners, appealed Friday to her kidnappers to free her. (Full story)

"I want to speak directly to the men holding my daughter Jill, because they may also be fathers like me," Jim Carroll said in the statement that aired Friday on the Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera. "My daughter does not have the ability to free anyone. She is a reporter and an innocent person. Do not sacrifice an innocent soul."

Aziz's health

Tariq Aziz, a deputy prime minister under Hussein who has diabetes and high blood pressure, is in stable health, said Deputy Justice Minister Bosho Ibrahim Ali after he visited Aziz in prison.

Aziz, who was No. 25 on the U.S. list of most-wanted Iraqis, had both conditions before he was captured, Ali said. Earlier, characterized claims that Aziz was near death as "all rumors and lies."

Aziz is facing charges of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.

CNN's Cal Perry and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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