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Maliki group 'leads Iraq election'

A coalition led by Iraq's prime minister has emerged as the biggest winner in parliamentary elections, paving the way for him to try to form the country's next government.

The results for the first parliamentary election since the US military withdrawal in 2011 were released today by the Independent High Electoral Commission.

They show that Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite State of Law bloc gained 92 seats in the 328-member parliament.

A list loyal to Shiite firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr came second with 28 seats, followed by powerful Shiite Ammar al-Hakim's list with 29 seats.

State of Law is not expected to command an outright majority, so Mr al-Maliki must now reach out to other blocs to try to form a ruling coalition - a process that could take months.

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