Barred Iraqis allowed to contest polls

BAGHDAD: Around 500 candidates barred from Iraq’s March 7 general election for alleged links to executed dictator Saddam Hussein will be allowed to stand, an electoral official told AFP on Wednesday.

Politicians from Iraq’s

Sunni Arab minority, which dominated Saddam’s regime, were enraged over the original disqualifications and both Washington and the United Nations had voiced concern they might undermine the election’s credibility.

“They have the right to run in the election,” said Hamdiyah al-Husseini, a senior official from the Independent High Electoral Commission. “The appeal court will look at their file after the election,” and if they find them to have links to Saddam’s outlawed Baath party, “they will be eliminated,” she said.

On Friday, UN envoy Ad Melkert called on Iraq to

strike a balance between the need to exclude former allies of Saddam and ensure a fair election. He said discussions with Iraqi leaders in recent days had focused on the need for the vote to be conducted “in a credible manner ... leading to an outcome acceptable to the Iraqi people.”