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Ballot Counting Begins in Iraq Parliament Vote


Ballot-counting is under way in Iraq, where sporadic violence failed to mar an historic vote for a new four-year parliament.

Strong turn-out was reported across the country, and officials extended polling an extra hour in some areas to accommodate long lines of voters.

In insurgency-plagued western Iraq, the main problem was a shortage of ballots due to high turnout among Sunni Arabs who mostly boycotted the last election.

Election commission spokesman Farid Ayar said there were some complaints about the vote that officials would address. He said final tallies for the 275-seat parliament could take two weeks or more.

In Washington, President Bush called the vote a "major step forward" in helping to create a democratic Iraq that can sustain and defend itself.

And the commander of U.S. forces, General George Casey praised the work of Iraqi forces to curb violence during polling.

Iraqi officials said two people died and three were injured in anti-election violence.

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