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UN Dismisses Claims of Voter Fraud in Iraq; 9 Dead in Attempted Prison Break 


A top United Nations official says Iraq's recent parliamentary elections were credible and there is no need to re-run the poll. Meanwhile, an attempted prison escape has turned deadly for inmates and guards.

Election officials held a press conference Wednesday to counter allegations of widespread voter fraud in the country's December 15 national election.

Sunni and Secular parties disappointed by preliminary election results have called for a re-run of the vote. They accuse the United Iraqi Alliance, the dominant Shi'ite coalition expected to gain the largest number of seats in the new parliament, of rigging the vote. They also say the Iraqi Electoral Commission has helped hide voting fraud.

But the adviser on the United Nations Election Assistance team, Craig Jenness, said the election was conducted successfully, and that few instances of voter fraud were evident.

"We the United Nations see no justification for a rerun of the election," he said. "These were good elections inside and outside the country. However as there are more candidates than seats in parliament it is natural that some candidates will not be satisfied with the results. But in our view all communities have won in these elections."

Jenness says some election fraud had been detected, but at a rate of only one instance per seven thousand voters, what he called "a good percentage".

The election results will not be finalized until early next month, but high level meetings on the makeup of the new government are already underway. Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, met again Wednesday with leaders of the Kurdish Coalition in northern Iraq.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military says 16 high-security prisoners tried to escape from a prison run by the Iraqi Justice Ministry Wednesday morning.

Shooting broke out as prisoners attempted to break into an armory. The U.S. military says four Iraqi prison guards, one interpreter, and four prisoners were killed.

The military also said one U.S. soldier was wounded in the incident, which occurred at the al-Adala Prison in the northern Baghdad suburb of Kadhemeeya. Military officials say no prisoners escaped.

An Iraqi Justice Ministry spokesman said one of the dead inmates was a Syrian serving a 15-year prison sentence.

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