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Iraqi Sunni election boycott fizzles

BAGHDAD, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- A decision by an influential Sunni leader in Iraq to boycott March elections was met with little support as the campaign season heats up, officials said.

The National Dialogue Front announced during the weekend it would not take part in parliamentary elections scheduled for March 7. Saleh al-Mutlaq, the influential Sunni head of the party, said he was frustrated with Iranian influence in the election process.

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Sunnis in Iraq stayed out of the election process in 2005, opening the door to Shiite dominance of the Iraq government.

The Justice and Accountability Commission of former Washington favorite Ahmed Chalabi barred scores of leading Sunni leaders, including Mutlaq, from taking part in the election because of alleged ties to the outlawed Baath Party.

Mutlaq left the Baath Party in the 1970s.

Washington accused Chalabi of launching the plot to remove hundreds of candidates from the ballot with the help of his close counterparts in Tehran.

Mohommad Tammeem, a pro-Mutlaq lawmaker running for a seat in the ethnically divided city of Kirkuk, said a widespread boycott would leave many Iraqis without representation in Baghdad, the Emirati newspaper The National reports.

"We will take part in the election," he said. "We must, otherwise we will lose our ability to influence the future of Iraq."

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The secular Iraqiya list of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi challenged the JAC decision but has not indicated it would pull out of the election. Mutlaq's party is a member of Iraqiya.

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