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Biden in Iraq to Help Ease Pre-Election Tensions

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has arrived in the Iraqi capital to help ease tensions over a decision to ban hundreds of candidates from upcoming parliamentary elections.

The White House says Biden will meet with Iraqi political leaders including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani.

U.S. officials did not announce Biden's trip in advance.

An Iraqi governmental committee has banned 511 candidates from running in parliamentary elections on March 7, due to their ties to the outlawed Baath party of Iraq's executed Sunni dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Minority Sunnis see the move as an attempt to marginalize them politically by majority Shi'ites who dominate Iraq's government. Iraqis have also expressed concern the dispute could hurt the country's national reconciliation efforts.

Mr. Talabani, a Kurd, ordered an investigation Thursday into the decision to ban the candidates. He said he asked the head of Iraq's supreme judicial council to rule on whether the committee that made the decision is legal.

The White House says while in Iraq Vice President Biden will also receive updates from U.S. military and civilian leaders, and visit with American troops.

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