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Polling places in Iraqi insurgent centers to be kept secret

[JURIST] A US general speaking from Baghdad Tuesday said that Iraqis would be able to vote in the cities of Fallujah [BBC profile] and Ramadi [Wikipedia profile], both scenes of repeated insurgent attacks against Iraqi and US targets, but that for security reasons the location of polling places would be kept secret until the last minute. Lieutenant General John Sattler [DOD profile], commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force [official military website], also said that former residents of Fallujah now homeless after fighting there might be able to vote elsewhere. Watch recorded video of his briefing from the Department of Defense. Fallujah and Ramadi are in Anbar province, an area which Iraqi officials and American officers had earlier suggested might be too dangerous to permit safe voting. Some 500,000 Iraqis in the province may be eligible to vote. AFP has more.

In related developments, the UN's chief election adviser in Iraq, Carlos Valenzuela, has said that although intimidation of election workers by insurgents was very serious, the elections would go ahead as planned January 30 unless there were sustained attacks forcing mass resignations or making the vote otherwise impossible. AP has more. Meanwhile US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte [official profile] admitted in a statement Tuesday that what he called a "ruthless campaign of terror and intimidation" was "taking its toll", but that "we are confident that elections can and will be conducted successfully. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has developed a number of strategies for dealing with electoral procedures in areas where security conditions will prevent normal polling from taking place, to ensure that participation in the elections is inclusive." Read Negroponte's full statement. The US Embassy in Baghdad has issued a factsheet outlining the criteria for candidacy to Iraq’s Transitional National Assembly under the Iraqi interim constitution (the Transitional Administrative Law) and the timeline for the Assembly to complete its work in drafting a constitution; an additional factsheet sets out relevant electoral law under Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 96.

3:08 PM ET - According to Hussein al-Hindawe, head of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq [official website], the location of polling stations will be handwritten on election posters and will not be revealed until just before the vote. Other measures to be taken to ensure security include the reduction in the number of polling stations from 8,000 to 5,000 and the parking of ambulances near polling stations. Organizers are particularly concerned with threats made by Sunni insurgents that voters would be beheaded. IRIN has more.

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