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Violence erases Iraqi election gains

April 23, 2013 at 11:32 AM

BRUSSELS, April 23 (UPI) -- The European Union said it was concerned about lingering political tensions in post-war Iraq despite successful Iraqi provincial council elections.

Thousands of candidates competed for the estimated 400 seats in last weekend's provincial council elections in Iraq. Violence rocked the country the week ahead of the vote, though Election Day was relatively peaceful.

The European Union said provincial council elections, the first since U.S. forces left the country, helped secure democratic principles in Iraq. It expressed concern, however, that the security situation prevented a vote in Anbar and Nineveh provinces.

Political tensions in Iraq erupted shortly after U.S. forces left the country in December 2011. A protest movement has developed in Sunni-dominated Anbar against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite.

In a statement, the European Union "calls on the government of Iraq and all Iraq's political forces to engage in an inclusive and genuine dialogue to address grievances and resolve political differences."

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Iraqi forces stormed a Sunni protest encampment in Kirkuk in northern Iraq. At least 33 civilians died in the attack.

Tuesday's fighting in Kirkuk was the single deadliest incident in Sunni-led protests against Maliki.

Sunni groups in Anbar and Salahuddin provinces began mobilizing after Tuesday's violence, declaring war on the Maliki government, the Times reported.

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