Baghdad recount throws Iraq election wide open
by Staff Writers
Britain would not have joined Iraq war without WMD: minister
London (AFP) April 19, 2010 -
Britain would not have joined the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq if it had known that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Monday.
Miliband made the comments in a BBC debate on foreign affairs before the May 6 general election with William Hague, foreign affairs spokesman for opposition Conservatives, and Ed Davey, his Liberal Democrat counterpart.
Asked whether Britain would have gone into Iraq alongside the US if it knew then what it knows now, he said: "Obviously there would have been no such decision, because if we had known then what we know now, if we'd have known that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, there would have been no UN resolutions and no vote in the House of Commons.
"The 2010 election is not about Iraq, that's what we did in 2005" (the year of Britain's last general election).
Asked a second time to clarify that Britain would not have gone into Iraq under those circumstances, he added: "Of course not, because there would have been no WMD, no United Nations resolution, no vote in the House of Commons."
Miliband's comments seem to run contrary to comments he made to Britain's public inquiry into the highly controversial war last month.
Then, he said he had supported the war because he thought Iraqi leader Saddam's defiance of the UN "was itself a danger to international peace" and the UN's authority had to be upheld.
Britain's general election race is looking hard to call after a recent surge of support for the Liberal Democrats, usually Britain's third largest party, who opposed the war in Iraq.
A YouGov/Sun newspaper poll Monday put the Liberal Democrats ahead, up three on 33 percent, the Conservatives down one percent to 32 and Labour down two on 26.
Baghdad April 19, 2010
The result of Iraq's election was thrown wide open Monday when a judicial panel ordered that ballots cast in Baghdad be manually recounted in a surprise move that could affect who leads the country.
The decision came after an appeal by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who, according to unofficial results, narrowly lost the March 7 vote to his rival and former premier Iyad Allawi.
Baghdad, with a total of 70 seats, was by far the biggest prize for parties competing in the second national election since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein, which will eventually lead to a new parliament comprising 325 MPs.
Although Maliki, a Shiite, came out ahead in the capital -- winning 26 seats to Allawi's 24 -- he alleged there had been manipulation in voting stations and that he had lost a total of 750,000 votes in five provinces, including Baghdad.
The recount could lead to a wider winning margin for the incumbent premier in the capital, allowing him to eventually overturn his 89-91 defeat nationally to Allawi's secular Iraqiya coalition.
"The judicial panel decided to recount the votes in Baghdad," said Hamdiyah al-Husseini, of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), whose colleague, Iyad al-Kenani, confirmed it would be a manual recount.
Under the Iraqi constitution, Allawi's Iraqiya bloc, as the election's victors, was entitled to first crack at forming a government but he has so far failed to do so.
Were Maliki, who has also struggled to win backing from other parties -- including former allies in the Iraqi National Alliance, the country's largest religious political grouping -- to gain seats he could yet come out ahead.
A key Maliki ally said the recount was a direct result of the State of Law's appeal and that it expected to gain seats.
"The committee discussed all the documents and evidence that prove that there was some manipulation in voting stations," said Hassen al-Senaed, a State of Law parliamentarian.
"We expect an increase in our number of seats in Baghdad. The manipulation included the changing of signatures and the removal of names and numbers and changing of ballots," he said.
The judicial panel that ordered the Baghdad recount was established by IHEC to handle complaints from aggrieved parties about the conduct of the election.
"The appeal committee was convinced on the basis of the evidence and they took the decision to recount in all stations in Baghdad," Senaed added.
No one from Iraqiya, led by former Shiite premier Allawi but regarded as a secular coalition that won strong support in Sunni provinces, was immediately available for comment.
UN special representative to Iraq Ad Melkert last month described the polls as "credible" after the IHEC said there was no evidence of systematic or widespread fraud in the ballot count.
A total tally last month said Maliki won 903,360 votes in Baghdad, compared with Iraqiya's 841,755. The National Alliance (INA), a strongly Shiite grouping, won 561,659 votes, according to the unofficial results.
The recount is likely to add to the sense of political instability apparent in Iraq since last month's inconclusive election.
With neither Allawi nor Maliki gaining anywhere near the 163 seats necessary to form a government on their own, the weeks since have been dominated by talks with smaller parties, some with close ties to Iran, to build a coalition.
Among those whose support the pair, the main candidates for the prime minister's post, have been jostling for is that of the Sadrist movement of anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Sadr, who has been in self-imposed exile in Iran for the past three years, however, has issued several statements in recent weeks criticising Maliki.
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