The certified final results of last month's critical vote for a new parliament in Iraq will be made public Friday, the Independent Electoral Commission said. Unofficial totals that have leaked to the news media indicate the United Iraqi Alliance, the dominant Shiite coalition, won 128 of the 275 seats in the legislature, with two Sunni blocs taking a combined 55 and a coalition of Kurdish parties winning 53. But the commission also had to handle at least 10 complaints, delaying the certification. In other developments Wednesday, Shiite legislator Sami al-Mudafar, who serves as the government's minister for higher education, escaped unharmed when a car bomb exploded as the motorcade in which he was riding passed in Baghdad. The attempt on his life was the second in two years. Meanwhile, a military spokesman said other Iraqi troops guarding the border with Syria halted an illegal convoy of 60 tanker trucks filled with crude oil as it neared a crossing point. The trucks were seized, the spokesman said.
Public health authorities confirmed the spread of the pathogenic H5N1 bird flu virus in northern Nigeria, the first known case in Africa. The nation's Agriculture Ministry said Wednesday that all chickens suspected of being infected will be slaughtered, a move seen as potentially devastating to the millions of Nigerians who keep chickens at their homes. Migratory birds generally are blamed for the spread of the disease westward from Asia, but it was unclear how it arrived at a large chicken farm all the way at Africa's Atlantic coast, unless by illegally imported fowl. Meanwhile, authorities in China reported a new case of a human infected with H5N1, plus an outbreak at a poultry farm in northern Shanxi Province. In Hong Kong, the Agriculture Department also said a dead egret had tested positive for H5N1.
Only about 20 percent of eligible voters turned out Wednesday for the local elections in Nepal, the first in the Himalayan nation since King Gyanendra seized power a year ago. Results are not expected until Thursday. The government had promoted the elections as a step back toward democracy. But they were boycotted by opposition parties, and the communist rebel movement called for a week-long general strike to discourage participation and vowed to take revenge against anyone who went to the polls. In another intimidation tactic, they also attacked a town in eastern Nepal, killing a policeman and a civilian, taking 10 people hostage, and bombing government buildings and a bank. The rebels called off the strike after the polls closed, saying it had achieved its objectives.
The votes from Tuesday's election for president in Haiti were being counted, but with numerous logistical challenges to overcome, officials said the winner might not be known for days. Among the challenges: the transporting of ballots from some remote mountainous locations by mule. Turnout was so heavy that poll hours had to be extended and some voters had to mark their ballots by candlelight, the officials said. The election pitted ex-President René Preval against 32 rivals. While widely expected to win, Preval needed better than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a March 19 runoff against the No. 2 finisher. He is a former protégé of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, although he did not run on the latter's Lavalas Family ticket.
Shipping traffic through the Suez Canal, one of the world's most vital waterways, was at a standstill Wednesday as tugboats attempted to set a 93,000-ton freighter back on course. The Okal King Dor, registered in Hong Kong, reportedly had been sailing north at about the midpoint of the canal when a powerful sandstorm blew it sideways to the channel. Roughly 8 percent of the world's sea trade - or about 50 ships a day - passes through the 120-mile-long canal, which spans 330 yards at its narrowest point. It is controlled by Egypt's Suez Canal Authority, which collected $3 billion in tolls in 2004, the latest year for which data are available. The canal connects the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.