Thirty-five Iraqi political groups, including Sunni Arabs and secular Shi'ites, have rejected the early results from last week's election.
In a joint statement Thursday, the groups called for an international probe of alleged fraud in the elections. The groups include the main Sunni Arab coalition and a secular Shi'ite bloc headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
Preliminary results from the December 15th parliamentary elections show a strong lead for the main Shi'ite coalition.
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Baghdad Thursday to meet with American troops and Iraqi officials. Mr. Rumsfeld said Iraq has entered a critical phase as it forms a government for the next four years. He said the United States wants to see people in power that hold Iraq together, not pull it apart.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Poland's Prime Minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz also made unannounced visits to Iraq to meet with their countries' troops.