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Thread: U.S. Officials Meet Iraqi Leader After Recount Call

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    U.S. Officials Meet Iraqi Leader After Recount Call

    U.S. Officials Meet Iraqi Leader After Recount Call
    Published: March 22, 2010

    BAGHDAD — The two top American officials in Iraq met Monday with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki after his endorsement over the weekend of a recount in the parliamentary elections incited fears of a political crisis in a country not accustomed to peaceful transfers of power.
    At War

    In the political vacuum created by the delay in the tally of the March 7 vote, suspicions have run deep that fraud and political tampering could cast doubt on the validity of the elections. But American diplomats said they were assured that there was no crisis, after conversations between Mr. Maliki and the two officials, Gen. Ray Odierno, the top American military commander in Iraq, and Christopher R. Hill, the American ambassador.

    “We’re not picking up vibes of a crisis,” said a United States official in Baghdad who participated in the meeting with the prime minister.

    On Monday, Mr. Maliki and officials from his State of Law coalition, who are in a tight race with an alliance headed by Ayad Allawi, the former interim prime minister, did not back down from their call for a manual recount, despite the state election commission’s refusal.

    In a country burdened by its recent past of sectarian war and its longer past of rule by tyranny, and still unfamiliar with the mechanisms of democracy, every statement is parsed for deeper meaning. When Mr. Maliki invoked his commander-in-chief role and the specter of violence in calling for a recount on Sunday, he raised fears that he would not respect the democratic process.

    But the American official, who spoke anonymously as ground rules for a briefing with more than a dozen reporters Monday at the United States Embassy here, said Mr. Maliki played down any worries about violence, though he and other Iraqi officials expressed “concerns about the tabulations process and how it’s being carried out.”

    At the Defense Department on Monday, Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment directly on Mr. Maliki’s public statement on the recount, but he stressed the importance of moving quickly and calmly toward forming a new government.

    “I see no indication of any increased security concern,” Mr. Whitman said. “Bringing the Iraqi elections to a resolution is important to do.”

    Election officials have counted about 95 percent of the ballots from the March 7 election, and have said they plan to release complete results Friday after investigating the most significant allegations of fraud made by political parties.

    But with State of Law not backing down from its recount demand, Friday’s planned announcement of the full results could set off a political showdown if Mr. Maliki’s coalition persists in questioning the result. On Monday, Hachem al-Hasani, a spokesman for State of Law, said that if the commission did not agree to a manual recount, “the question of legitimacy” would hang over the election results in the minds of the Iraqi people.

    A valid election and smooth transition to a new government are seen as pivotal events for the legacy of the American war here, as the United States military plans to remove all combat troops by the end of August, leaving 50,000 troops in an advisory role through 2011.

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