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Allawi: Iraqis may be unable to vote in some places

'Security situation is still bad,' interim prime minister says

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Fear of violence will keep Iraqis in some parts of the country from voting in the national elections less than three weeks away, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Tuesday.

"The security situation is still bad," Allawi said. "We don't claim we have completely provided security to Iraqis, but I say there has been good progress."

Allawi's comments came at a news conference focusing on the need to strengthen Iraq's security and police forces.

"Certainly, there are some pockets who will not take part in these elections, but they are not many pockets," he said. "In the next two weeks, there should be a consensus on taking part in elections."

Iraqis go to the polls January 30 to elect a 275-seat transitional national assembly.

Delegates from 11 countries and the United Nations will monitor the elections, the director of the country's independent electoral committee, Adil Al-Lamy, said Tuesday.

"We think that it will be legitimate and it will be a free and democratic election," said committee spokesman Fareed Ayar.

Authorities expect about 57 percent of the nation's 14 million Iraqis to vote, Ayar said. Voters will need to present two identity cards, at least one of which must bear a photo.

Up to eight monitors will be posted at each polling station, officials said.

In cities where security is a concern, Allawi said, officials have contacted tribal leaders and clerics to urge an end to terrorist attacks, and "these contacts are bearing fruit."

Part of the security plan is to outfit the forces with modern training, equipment and arms, Allawi said, as well as integrating the Iraqi army with the country's national guard.

"We want to raise this number to 150,000," he said. The army now numbers about 100,000.

Iraq's security situation was on the agenda at a meeting Tuesday between U.S. Army Gen. John P. Abizaid and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

"The elections in Iraq are the enemy of the terrorists," Abizaid said after the meeting.

As chief of U.S. Central Command, Abizaid is in charge of American military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the region.

Gul met Monday with members of the Turkish ruling party regarding rumors surrounding the election in its southern neighbor of Iraq.

"The elections should not be canceled," he said. "They should take place somehow."

Despite a threatened boycott by Sunni Muslim clerics, Abizaid said, "We welcome Sunni Arabs to participate in the elections."

Over the weekend, U.S. Embassy officials in Iraq met with representatives of an influential group of Sunni clerics. The clerics have offered to end their boycott of the elections if the United States would provide them with a timetable for withdrawing troops.

Although a minority, Sunnis ruled the country during Saddam Hussein's regime. Sunni leaders have expressed concern about receiving enough future government positions to provide representation for their community.

Turkey, Iraq agree to fight group

In a separate meeting Tuesday, leaders from the United States and Turkey talked with Iraqi officials about security concerns that may pose a threat to Turkey.

A main topic of the five-hour meeting in Ankara, Turkey, was the concern surrounding the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, a rebel group in northern Iraq that Turkey and the United States consider to be a terrorist organization.

A statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry points to agreements between the two nations.

"Both Iraqi and Turkish delegations agreed to have future meetings and bilateral cooperation regarding the fight against terrorist groups, including the PKK," the statement said.

Officials said that the United States is pleased with the cooperation and that the three nations have decided to take measures to remove the group from Iraq.

Soldier killed in western Iraq

A U.S. soldier attached to a Marine unit in western Iraq was killed in combat Tuesday, the Marine Corps said. The soldier's name was not released pending notification of next of kin, and no details were released.

The incident took place in Iraq's Al Anbar province, which stretches from just west of Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders.

Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb hit a U.S. military convoy south of Baghdad, wounding one soldier, a spokesman with the Army's 1st Cavalry Division said. The soldier was evacuated for treatment.

The latest fatality brings the number of American troops to die in Iraq to 1,361. Most have been killed in a guerrilla campaign that followed the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Elsewhere, Iraqis were killed Tuesday in at least three separate incidents.

In the north-central Iraqi city of Tikrit, a car bomb went off near a police station, killing six Iraqi police, a U.S. military spokesman said.

Four Iraqi police also were wounded in the attack, said a spokesman for the country's Interior Ministry.

"As the Iraqi police continue to get stronger and continue to pose a threat to the insurgents and terrorists, they will be targeted," said Maj. Neal O'Brien with the Army's 1st Infantry Division.

Three Iraqi National Guard members were killed and six others were wounded when they and U.S. troops came under attack from insurgents while on a mission to deliver heaters and supplies to a school in northern Iraq, military officials said.

The troops were hit by a roadside bomb and then were shot at by insurgents in the Saddam Mosque, a Task Force Olympia spokesman said.

"Firing from the mosque clearly is a violation of the laws of war," the task force said in a statement.

In addition, two Iraqi civilians were reported killed after three mortar rounds were launched by insurgents near Abu Ghraib prison about 1 p.m.

A U.S. Marine patrol responded, and local civilians told them two women were killed and six other people were wounded. The casualties had been removed before the patrol arrived, military officials said. The patrol reported the impacts were consistent with those made by 120mm mortar rounds.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials said Iraqi authorities mistakenly identified a man killed in a Sunday drive-by shooting in Samarra as Mohammed Mudhafar Al-Badri, the deputy police chief in the city north of Baghdad. A military representative said Al-Badri is still alive.

CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh contributed to this report.

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