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Iraq Postpones Announcing Initial Election Results

Iraq's election commission has postponed announcing initial results from Sunday's parliamentary election because it says it has not finished counting enough votes.

A spokesman for Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission said Tuesday they would make an announcement once they had tabulated 30 percent of the votes. Election officials say they should reach that threshold to present the initial results on Wednesday or Thursday.

Iraqi officials planned to publish preliminary results Tuesday for Baghdad and some provinces. The Iraqi capital is a key electoral prize for Iraq's competing factions as it commands about one-fifth of the 325 seats in parliament.

The U.N. Security Council praised the elections Monday as a key step toward strengthening Iraq's national unity and independence. The 15-member body said Iraqis have shown a commitment to a "peaceful, inclusive and democratic political process."

More than 6,000 candidates from parties and coalitions competed in the election. No one faction is expected to win an outright majority, and building a coalition to form a new government could take months.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hopes to keep his Shi'ite-led State of Law faction in power. He faces challenges from former Shi'ite allies in the Iraqi National Alliance and the secular Shi'ite-Sunni Iraqiya faction, led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Voters took part in the election Sunday despite attacks and bombings that killed 38 people, mainly in Baghdad.

Iraqi electoral authorities say turnout among the country's minority Sunnis was strong compared to the last parliamentary elections in 2005 when many Sunnis boycotted the process.

Iraq's overall turnout was 62 percent.

The new government will have the challenge of taking full responsibility for Iraq's security after U.S. troops withdraw from the country late next year.

In Washington Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the election a milestone for the Iraqi people and for the U.S.-Iraq relationship.

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