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Iraq bombings kill 42 before vote results

Updated: 2010-03-27 01:32
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Iraq bombings kill 42 before vote results
A resident removes debris from the site of a bomb attack in Hit, about 130 km (80 miles) west of Baghdad March 25, 2010. [Agencies]

BAGHDAD: Two bombs killed 42 people and wounded 65 others in Iraq's mainly Sunni Diyala province on Friday, underscoring tensions just before the release of full preliminary results from the March 7 parliamentary election.

A car bomb and a roadside bomb exploded in the town of Khalis, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Iraq's Independent High Electoral Council (IHEC) was to release results of a count of all the votes later on Friday, 19 days after an election Iraqis hoped would stabilise their nation after years of sectarian warfare.

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The tensions foreshadowed potentially divisive talks to form the next government. Sectarian violence exploded when politicians took more than five months to agree a government after the last parliamentary vote in 2005 and tens of thousands of people were killed.

An election official said the top two blocs, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law and the cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition led by secularist former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi were expected to be one or two seats apart.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of Maliki's supporters gathered at Baghdad's provincial government building to echo the prime minister's demand for a recount, waving banners that read: "No, no to fraud" and "Where have our voices gone?"

All of the major parties have alleged irregularities in the election. But Maliki and his supporters have been most outspoken as the last published results put Allawi's bloc ahead in the national count by about 11,000 votes.

"We condemn the work of IHEC and cases of fraud that have occurred for the benefit of the Iraqiya list," said protester Arkan Shahab, 47.

"The process of fraud that has openly occurred and the abolition of the will of the Iraqi people will have severe consequences for the perpetrators."

Foreign diplomats and analysts have expressed concern about the possibility of renewed violence if the losing parties do not accept the results. Violence has dropped dramatically in the last two years but attacks by Sunni insurgents occur daily.

Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, Baghdad's security spokesman, said earlier that security forces were not imposing a curfew but would be ready for any signs of trouble as the vote results were released.

"We have a heavy deployment of troops in all areas, checkpoints, to reassure people and address their concerns," he said.