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Baghdad--A recount of votes cast in Baghdad in Iraq's inconclusive March 7 election is likely to be concluded within two weeks, a member of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said on Wednesday.
In a statement on IHEC's web site, commissioner Hamdiya al-Hussaini said a committee has been formed to handle the manual recount, which should begin within a few days.
The cross-sectarian Iraqiya alliance led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi narrowly won the election with 91 seats, just two ahead of the State of Law coalition of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Both fell well short of a majority in Iraq's 325-seat parliament.
The United Nations and the United States described the election as imperfect but largely fair and free of fraud.
State of Law sought a recount, claiming up to 750,000 votes were affected by fraud. A review panel ordered on Monday a recount of the 2.5 million votes cast in the Iraqi capital.
Iraqiya was backed by the Sunni minority, which dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein and whose frustration at the rise of Shia majority power following the 2003 US-led invasion fuelled an insurgency and wholesale sectarian slaughter.
Iraqiya officials said on Tuesday they backed a recount, but were concerned about how it would be handled. Allawi said he was worried about where ballot boxes had been kept since March 7.
Hussaini's statement said the manual recount will be carried out in the presence of "local and international observers, agents of the political parties and the media".
The ballot boxes have been kept in "safe and special warehouses", the statement said.
Once the election results are finalized, Iraq's political parties will return to negotiating the formation of a coalition government, a process that could take months.