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Iraqi Election Panel Orders Baghdad Recount

An Iraqi election panel has ordered a manual recount of votes cast in Baghdad during last month's parliamentary election, following an appeal from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The recount could change the outcome of the tightly contested March 7 election, since Baghdad accounts for nearly a fifth of Iraq's 325-seat parliament.

Mr. Maliki's coalition came in a close second, just behind the secular party of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

However, Mr. Maliki's State of Law alliance said it had uncovered evidence of widespread fraud in five provinces, including Baghdad, that could have significantly affected the outcome of the election.

Former Prime Minister Allawi's secular Iraqiya alliance won 91 seats in the election --just two more than Mr. Maliki's alliance. Both groups have been seeking coalition partners to build a parliamentary majority.

International observers have said the election was fair.

Senior State of Law coalition members say they are hoping the recount will increase their party's parliamentary seats in Baghdad.

Mr. Maliki's coalition won 26 seats in the capital, while Mr. Allawi's alliance won 24.

Meanwhile, Turkey's foreign minister said Monday his country is offering its unconditional support for Iraq.

Ahmet Davutoglu says Turkey has good relations with all groups in Iraq. He also said he was confident that all groups would come together to shape their country's future.

He commented Monday in a joint press conference with Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

The Iraqi vice president said establishing a new Iraqi government according to the constitution was the most important matter his country faced.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.