BRUSSELS, March 11, 2010 (AFP) - The point-man for European Parliament relations with Iraq accused on Thursday top Iraqi electoral commission figures of rigging the election at Iran's behest.
"I understand that very high officials from the Iraqi Electoral Commission have been caught cheating by entering false data on the election computer," said British conservative MEP Struan Stevenson in a statement.
He said they had been "caught red-handed attempting to manipulate the election results in favour of the incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki," in "blatant attempts" to "defraud the Iraqi people".
President of the EU parliament's delegation for relations with Iraq, Stevenson claimed the actions he was referring to were "clearly indicative" of an election campaign that "has included murder, intimidation, blackmail and fraud."
That campaign bore "all the hallmarks of being inspired, financed and managed by Tehran," he underlined, referring to neighbouring Iran.
Stevenson added that he had contacted the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq in Baghdad, warning that "every hour that passes simply provides more opportunities for fraud."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was in a tight contest to keep his job as he vied with ex-premier Iyad Allawi, initial election results from four of the country's 18 provinces showed Thursday.
The preliminary figures, which were announced once 30 percent of votes had been counted in the southern provinces of Najaf and Babil, put Maliki's State of Law Alliance first and the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), a coalition led by Shiite religious groups, in second place.
The INA said in a statement that it was concerned over "signs of intentions to change the election results."
Stevenson's statement was issued to AFP by his personal representatives and not by his political grouping at the parliament, but he added that his claims had "caused great consternation in Strasbourg," France, where the parliament is in session.
Complete results are expected to be announced on March 18 and the final ones -- after any appeals are dealt with -- will come at the end of the month.
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