The United Nations envoy to Iraq is warning that militants will try to disrupt the country's provincial elections scheduled for early next year.

Staffan de Mistura told reporters Sunday that officials are expecting "spectacular attempts" aimed at disrupting the elections.  He did not elaborate, but said security in the country has improved and the attempts will fail.

De Mistura also announced measures designed to prevent voter fraud.  One measure will require voters to register at their own polling place to prevent repeat voting.

The U.N. mission to Iraq and another agency have trained some 60,000 electoral observers for the January 31 vote.  Officials hope to deploy at least 200,000 observers on election day.

Provincial elections were originally scheduled to take place October 1.  But disputes regarding quotas for minorities and a power-sharing deal in the oil-rich area of Kirkuk delayed passage of the provincial election law.

The United States says the polls are an important step toward national reconciliation.

In violence Sunday, the U.S. broadcaster, National Public Radio, said some of its journalists escaped injury when their parked car exploded near them in western Baghdad.

NPR said Iraqi soldiers ran up to the journalists and warned them that a bomb had been placed underneath their car while they were inside a restaurant.  Seconds later, the car exploded, but no one was hurt.

According to NPR's Web site, an Iraqi army officer said an informant had alerted authorities about the bomb.  Iraqi soldiers arrested a shopkeeper from a nearby store as a suspect.