Hundreds of Sunni Arab clerics in Iraq have issued a religious edict (fatwa) urging Iraqis to vote in Thursday's crucial parliamentary election.
The call Tuesday was aimed at ensuring participation by Sunni voters, who mostly boycotted a January vote for an interim assembly.
Iraqi officials are planning tough security measures to prevent violence during the ballot, even as some insurgents warned loyalists not to attack polling stations.
Tuesday, expatriates began casting their ballots in 15 countries, including the United States, where some 240-thousand Iraqis were eligible to vote.
In Baghdad, the U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad said at least 120 detainees were found to have been abused in two Iraqi detention facilities. He added the abuse was "unacceptable" and said U.S. military officials would begin accompanying Iraqi forces to observe how people are taken into custody.
Iraqi officials say abuse charges have been exaggerated.
Also Tuesday, gunmen killed a prominent Sunni Arab politician, and four American soldiers died in a bomb blast.