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Iraq Transition

Allawi urges unity after Iraq vote

Purported Zarqawi statement exhorts Sunnis to resist Shiite rule

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What does the vote mean for the future of Iraq?

CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports on voter enthusiasm.

Sporadic violence doesn't deter voters.
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
Do you expect violence in Iraq to decline following the elections?

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi leaders turned their focus Monday to the long process of building a representative, democratic government -- with Sunday's election providing a newfound sense of optimism in parts of the country.

"Today we are entering a new phase in history," interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told a news conference. "It is a time for all Iraqis to come together to build our future."

But amid the jubilation, reminders of war were never far. The Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera aired a video Monday purportedly showing a militant group firing a missile at a British C-130 Hercules transport plane that crashed Sunday in Iraq, killing 10 British military personnel. (Full story)

And a statement attributed to wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on Monday urged Iraq's Sunni Muslims to fight the country's Shiite majority and vowed that "Baghdad will never be Shiite."

Al-Zarqawi opposed Sunday's election, and statements attributed to his group claimed responsibility for attacks on polling areas in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq.

Insurgents had vowed to wash the streets with "voters' blood" on election day, and dozens of attacks were carried out Sunday in which at least 29 people died and 71 were wounded. (Full story)

"In one area, a handicapped child was used in order to carry out a suicide attack on a polling station," Iraqi Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said Monday. "This is an indication of what horrific actions they are carrying out."

Authorities said extensive security measures prevented car bombings and other attacks that many feared would mar the elections.

Iraqis were electing a 275-member transitional national assembly, which will draft a new constitution and pick the country's next president and two vice presidents. The president will select a prime minister. (Structure)

Voters also elected members of 18 provincial councils, and Kurds in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq chose a Kurdish parliament.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq's Adil al-Alami estimated it may take 10 days to complete the counting.

More than 200 employees, working in shifts around the clock on 80 computers, will tabulate the results as quickly as possible, al-Alami said.

The electoral commission said it could not estimate how many voted, but officials said turnout was high.

Allawi said Iraqis had showed the world "their courage and their love of freedom."

"The terrorists were defeated in Iraq," he said.

While turnout was lower in certain Arab areas that are predominately Sunni Muslim -- as expected, given that some Sunni groups and religious leaders had called for a boycott -- elections officials said it was better than many had predicted.

Officials said about 14.2 million people were eligible to vote in Iraq and another 280,000 expatriates were registered to vote worldwide.

In the Kurdish region, officials with the political party Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said the turnout was between 80 percent and 90 percent.

Almost 94 percent of the Iraqis who registered to vote in 14 countries outside Iraq cast their ballots Friday through Sunday, a spokesman for the Iraq Out-of-Country Voting program said Monday.

Spokesman Darren Boisvert said 265,148 Iraqis voted, 78,385 of them casting their ballots Sunday.

World leaders hailed the vote as the beginning of a transition process that will lead to Iraqis controlling their own destiny. (Full story)

President Bush called the balloting a "resounding success." (Full story)

The Iraqi elections helped send a signal to the Arab world that democratic reforms are necessary, Jordan's King Abdullah II said Monday. (Full story)

Meanwhile, Arab media weighed in with a mix of hope, concern and skepticism. (Full story)

Tape blasts 'infidel government'

"Baghdad suffered for years under the rule of tyrants," al-Zarqawi's purported statement said. "But by God, Baghdad will never be Shiite."

It was not immediately known when the audiotape was made, and CNN could not independently confirm that the voice was al-Zarqawi's.

Al-Zarqawi accused Iraq's Shiite majority of smuggling 4 million Iranians into Iraq to vote "so the Shiites can accomplish their dream in gaining the majority of seats in the pagan legislature."

Arab Sunnis dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein despite making up a minority of the population. Shiites make up about 60 percent of Iraq's population, and voter turnout in Shiite areas was extensive. (Population breakdown)

Al-Zarqawi criticized other Muslims for failing to join his calls for holy war against U.S.-led troops and Allawi's interim government.

He said the "infidel government" was set up "to brainwash the people, so they can do America and Israel's work in stealing the wealth of the nation."

"Those who don't fight in the name of jihad need to be questioned about their real conviction," said the audio statement, posted on an Islamist Web site Monday.

Al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian-born terrorist leader who last year allied himself with Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network. His group, now called al Qaeda in Iraq, has carried out numerous attacks against Iraqi civilians, authorities and U.S. forces.

The United States has placed $25 million bounties each on al-Zarqawi and bin Laden.

Other developments

  • American troops opened fire to put down a riot Monday at a prison camp in southern Iraq that left four inmates dead and six wounded, U.S. military officials said. (Full story)
  • Three U.S. Marines were killed in action and two others wounded Monday "while conducting security and stability operations" in northern Babil province, the American military said, giving no further details. Since the start of the war, 1,433 American troops have died in Iraq, 1,096 in hostile action, according to the U.S. military.
  • CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Jane Arraf, Ingrid Formanek, Stephanie Halasz, Nic Robertson, Auday Sadeq, Barbara Starr and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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