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Allawi, defeated, still central in Iraq

Allawi, defeated, still central in Iraq
Faraj al-Haidari, head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), announces the official results of Iraq's general election in Baghdad, Iraq on March 26, 2010. Results released so far in Iraq's parliamentary election show Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki trailing his main rival, former prime minister Ayad Allawi. UPI/Ali Jasim | License Photo

BAGHDAD, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has lost his fight to lead Iraq, but remains a key figure in the fragile situation there, local and foreign observers say.

U.S. officials have voiced fears that Sunnis and secular forces will not see a government that excludes him as legitimate.

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"We're very, very interested in all of the key major players here having important roles," U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey said last month. "Ayad is one of the more important ones."

Allawi's Iraqiya bloc won 91 seats in the March election, two more than Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law bloc, but not enough to claim a majority in the 325-member parliament.

"Maliki knows very well that without me personally in this process it will be very hard for regional and democracy-loving countries to buy in," Allawi told The Washington Post. "If he doesn't accept real power-sharing, we have to say goodbye to democracy forever and we have to think about other means, peaceful means, to alter decisions."

Sunni Arabs had hoped he would end religious Shiite rule, but many Shiites see him as a return of Saddam Hussein's Baath party, despite his decades opposing the dictator.

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