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Iraqi Election Still Tight, as Vote Counting Continues

A secular coalition led by Iraq's former prime minister has taken a slight lead in overall votes as ballot counting from parliamentary elections continues - but it remains behind in the key provincial tally.

With about 93 percent of the ballots counted, election officials said Saturday that former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's secularists lead the Shi'ite coalition headed by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by about 8,000 votes.

The lead has repeatedly shifted between Mr. Allawi and Prime Minister Maliki since the March 7 vote.
But Mr. Maliki's State of Law coalition is still ahead in seven of Iraq's 18 provinces - compared to five provinces held by Mr. Allawi's Iraqiya alliance.

Seats in Iraq's 325-member parliament are won according to how well a coalition does in a province, not according to the overall vote.

Officials say they hope to have final results by the end of the month.

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