Protests across south Iraq as recount calls escalate

Fears of unrest grow as politicians, observers and insiders see Shia-dominated south unrest as the controversy over the March 7 vote recount grows.

BAGHDAD - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has insisted that the March 7 election ballots undergo a complete manual recount – even before results are officially announced – spurring supporters in key southern provinces to protest alleged wrongdoing in the national election, part of a post-election frenzy that is worrying analysts and insiders alike.

It has jump-started the Iraqi political rumor mill, after Sami al-Askari, a top aide to Maliki, told the Los Angeles Times* that if the vote were seen as illegitimate then key southern provinces – where most of Iraq's oil reserves, production and exports are located – could declare an autonomous region, hampering Baghdad's ability to receive and allocate revenues.

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