Candidates in Iraq's first national elections have begun campaigning, as a bomb attack in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala killed at least seven people.
Hundreds of candidates are running as individuals or as part of coalitions in the January 30th poll. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is leading an alliance of 240 candidates. Also running is senior Sunni politician Adnan Pachachi, who had earlier called for a Sunni boycott of the polls.
The United Nations also said it is preparing to open new offices in Basra and Erbil to boost its presence in the country before the vote.
The bomb blast near Karbala's Imam Hussein shrine also wounded 30 people, including a senior aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
And U.S. Defense officials said insurgent attacks in Iraq are slowing down some military operations.