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35 Iraqi Political Groups Reject Early Election Results


Thirty-five Iraqi political groups, including Sunni Arabs and secular Shi'ites, have rejected the early results from last week's election.

The 35 political groups Thursday issued a joint statement calling 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 partial results from the December 15 parliamentary elections show a strong lead for the main Shi'ite coalition.

In another development, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Baghdad Thursday to meet with American troops and Iraqi officials. Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters this is a critical phase in Iraq, as a government is formed 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, separate visits to Iraq today to meet with their countries' troops.

In the latest violence, a bomb explosion killed a U.S. soldier Thursday in Baghdad.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.