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Iraqi PM Urges High Turnout in Next Week's Elections


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has urged voters to go to the polls in large numbers during next week's provincial elections in Iraq.

Mr. Maliki said Friday the elections will help ensure greater stability in Iraq.

Iraqi and U.S. officials are hoping the January 31 elections will bring about greater security in the country, despite rising sectarian violence in recent weeks.

Iraqi officials say gunmen killed at least eight members of a Sunni Arab family in troubled Diyala province in attack in the town of Balad Ruz. At least five women and a child were among those killed.

Diyala, in central Iraq, is considered one of the most dangerous areas of the country. Al-Qaida in Iraq and some insurgent groups operate in the province.

Separately on Friday, Iraq and Turkey announced plans to create a military command center in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil to combat Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and to control the Turkish-Iraqi border.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and his Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, said the United States would be a third party to the facility, following talks in Ankara.

Turkey has carried out bombing raids on suspected Kurdish rebel hideouts in northern Iraq in response to assaults by fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, on Turkish soldiers.

The United States and Iraq have warned the conflict could destabilize northern Iraq.

The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey for nearly a quarter-century. At least 37-thousand people have been killed in the conflict.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union classify the PKK as a terrorist group.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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