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Iraq election commission rejects recount

BAGHDAD, March 21 (UPI) -- Iraq's electoral commission said Sunday it has rejected calls for a recount of votes from the March 7 parliamentary election.

With about 95 percent of votes counted, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, backed largely by Shiites, held a narrow lead over Iyad Allawi, who appeals to Sunni Arabs, for the biggest electoral bloc in Iraq's parliament, The Washington Post reported.

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The commission's decision came hours after Maliki and President Jalal Talabani called for a manual recount of votes.

Maliki said he demanded a recount to stave off political instability and renewed violence.

"The March 7 elections represented a big step on the road to reinforcing the democratic experience in Iraq," Maliki said in a statement.

Citing political blocs' demands for a manual recount, he said it's necessary to "protect the democratic experience and preserve the integrity of the electoral process … to preserve the political stability and prevent the deterioration of the security situation and the return of the violence that was only defeated after effort, blood and hardship."

Iraq's election commission said it won't decide on a recount before it meets.

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Maliki's demand came after his State of Law coalition and other leading blocks alleged voter fraud as the gap among votes for candidates narrowed.

No signs of major fraud or vote manipulation have been reported by election observers or the United Nations, which is working with the election commission.

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