By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 27, 2010; 7:27 PM
BAGHDAD -- Weighing in on legally dubious efforts to change the outcome of Iraq's March 7 parliamentary elections, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Iraqi officials Tuesday to act more speedily and openly in forming a new government.
"For challenges to be credible and legitimate, they must also be transparent," Clinton said in a statement. "Candidates should have every opportunity to answer charges against them."
Clinton, the most senior U.S. official to express concern over the post-election wrangling that threatens to delay for months the formation of a new Iraqi government, was referring to the work of a controversial commission tasked with weeding out from public office loyalists of Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party. The Justice and Accountability Commission disqualified hundreds of electoral candidates labeled as Baathists.
Critics say the commission, which is run by Shiite politicians, has disproportionately targeted Sunni and secular leaders and has denied them a chance to defend themselves. The commission's leaders say some newly elected lawmakers are subject to disqualification, and if an appeals panel agrees, their dismissal could erode the narrow victory of Iraqiya, the Sunni-backed coalition that is vying with Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's bloc for the right to form a government.
Clinton urged Iraq's leaders to "set aside their differences" and "form quickly a government that is inclusive."