BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's electoral commission won't release final results from last month's election in coming days because the panel is waiting on international monitors to finish investigating fraud complaints, a senior Iraqi election official said Saturday.
"It is impossible to have the final election results this week," Safwat Rashid, a senior member of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq told The Associated Press. He was referring to the Islamic week, which began Friday and ends on Thursday.
A senior official with an international team assessing the results at the request of the IEIC said the group won't issue its own findings for at least another week.
There had been hopes that delays could be overcome and that the final results would be released in the next days.
The leader of the main Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front, however, said waiting for the international team's findings was a logical decision that could boost the credibility of the outcome.
"If the results were announced without the review by the international committee, the results would not be accurate or in accordance with the votes that were actually cast," said Adnan al-Dulaimi.
Monitors from the International Mission for Iraqi Elections arrived at the beginning of January after Sunni Arab and Shiite secular parties alleged widespread fraud and intimidation in the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections. The parties had demanded a rerun of the elections in some provinces, including Baghdad, the largest with 59 of the parliament's 275-seats.
Preliminary results gave the governing United Iraqi Alliance, a Shiite religious bloc, a strong lead. But it won't win enough seats in the 275-member parliament to avoid forming a coalition with Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties.
Although leading politicians have expressed hopes a government could be formed in February, most experts and officials agree it could take two to three months, as it did after the January 2005 elections for an interim government.
In violence, insurgents apparently shot down a U.S. Army reconnaissance helicopter in the northern city of Mosul on Friday, killing its two pilots, in the second fatal helicopter crash in Iraq in less than a week.
One witness said he heard machine-gun fire before the helicopter crashed Friday, and children told soldiers that the sound of gunfire came from three or four directions and that the helicopter was flying erratically, possibly trying to evade it.
The helicopter's two pilots - the only people aboard - were killed.
The crash came as Lt. Gen. John Vines, chief of the Multi-National Corps Iraq, predicted increased attacks around Iraq when final election results are released. At least 500 people and more than 50 U.S. troops have been killed since the Dec. 15 elections.
Kamal al-Saadi, a senior official in Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's Dawa party, said the decision to delay the announcement may mean election officials want to be "more accurate in the process."
"I have no problem with a delay of another week. It's already been delayed a month and one week will not make any difference," he said. "We understand that the people want to have the results as soon as possible, but this delay is not our doing and we respect the work of the (electoral) committee."
About 1,500 complaints have been filed, including about 50 thought to be serious enough to affect the results at some of the more than 30,000 polling stations set up in the country of 27 million.
The monitoring team includes two executive representatives from the League of Arab States, one executive member of the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians and a respected European academic, the group has said.
Mazin Shuaib, executive manager of the international team, said the group would present a preliminary report within days but the final report would not be ready until after Jan. 22.
"The work is still going on and we are still discussing all the information that we collected from all sides, electoral commission, international monitors and other (political) parties," Shuaib told the AP. "We are not facing any problem in our mission and all sides are cooperating."
Rashid said the electoral commission would study the international team's findings and give political parties two days to submit any complaints. He said it could take up to two weeks to assess complaints.