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Iraq's Allawi Reaches Out to Rivals

Iraq's former prime minister Ayad Allawi reached out to rival parties Saturday and expressed hope that a coalition government can be formed quickly.

Mr. Allawi told reporters in Baghdad he is open to all political factions, and wants the new government to strengthen ties with neighboring countries as soon as possible. He said Iraq's stability depends on the region's stability.

Election officials announced Friday that Mr. Allawi's secular Iraqiya coalition won the most seats in the March 7 parliamentary elections. It edged past Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shi'ite-led State of Law coalition by two seats. Mr. Maliki has rejected the results.

As the top vote-getter, Mr. Allawi has 30 days to try to form the next Iraqi government. If he fails to do so, President Jalal Talabani will choose the leader of another political bloc for the task.

The full vote count gave former Prime Minister Allawi's coalition 91 seats and Mr. Maliki's bloc 89 seats, from a total of 325 seats in parliament. The Shi'ite-majority Iraqi National Alliance came in third with 70 seats, followed by the main Kurdish coalition, the Kurdistan Alliance, with 43.

The United Nations envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, said the elections were credible.

Separately Saturday, the death toll from twin blasts in Diyala province on Friday rose to 52. The explosions, which happened shortly before the election results were announced, wounded 73 people.

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