The head of the world's largest organization of Islamic countries says Sunday's election in Iraq was "not complete," because it did not fully involve that nation's Sunni-Muslim minority. But he had positive words for the election in general.
Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of the Organization of the Islamic Conference says the Iraqi election did not go far enough in involving all Iraqis.
"I would say that though it was not a complete and comprehensive election, but at least it was a starting point," he said. "For the last 50 years there was no democratic election or representation in Iraq. The steps taken in Iraq are primary, though they are not complete, but we hope that they are steps in the correct orientation."
Sunni areas of Iraq saw a lower turnout than other areas because of the greater threat of violence by insurgents. Many Sunnis also boycotted the elections because they were dissatisfied with the election process. The Sunnis ruled Iraq under ousted president Saddam Hussein, even though they are in the minority.
"In many cities people did not participate, particularly, in the Sunni part of Iraq. But nevertheless this is a very important development and we are happy with it and it should be the start for democratic process in the future of Iraq," he said.
Because of the lack of Sunni participation, fears have been expressed that Iraq might split apart. Mr. Ihsanoglu, in Islamabad for talks with Pakistani leaders, said the OIC member nations wanted Iraq to remain united.
"We are for the territorial integrity of Iraq, we are for the independence of Iraq and we are for a sovereign Iraq," he said. "And I do not think any of OIC countries would like to have a divided Iraq."
Iraq's majority Shiites are expected to dominate the new National Assembly, which will draw up a constitution. But some Shiite political leaders have said they will work to make sure Sunnis have a voice in the drafting of a constitution, despite their lack of participation in the election.