Turkish officials said on Sunday that they were particularly concerned about vote tallies in the oil-rich and ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk.

Turkey has long complained that Kurdish groups were illegally moving Kurds into Kirkuk, a strategic northern city, in an effort to tip the city's population balance in their favour.

Officials did not make direct reference to the Kurds on Sunday, but the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that voter turnout in some regions was low and charged that there were "imbalanced results" in several regions, including Kirkuk.

"It has emerged that certain elements have tried to influence the voting and have made unfair gains from this," the statement said, in an apparent reference to the Kurds.

Turkish fears

"As a result the Iraqi interim parliament won't reflect the true proportions of Iraqi society," the statement said. "The flaws ... lead to serious hesitations as to whether the goal of an interim parliament can be achieved."

"It has emerged that certain elements have tried to influence the voting and have made unfair gains from this"

Turkish Foreign Ministry

Ankara fears that Kurdish domination of Kirkuk and oilfields near the city would make a Kurdish state in northern Iraq viable.

Such a state, Turkish officials warn, could further inspire Turkey's own rebellious Kurds, who have been battling the army in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

Iraq's interim Foreign Minister Hushyar Zibari, a Kurd, said on Sunday that Turkey had no cause for concern over the strong Kurdish showing in Iraq's elections.

"Definitely all their fears are misplaced," he said. "Iraq will remain united. This Kurdish participation in this Iraqi election and in the regional election is reaffirmation of their commitment to a national unity of the country."

Not a conspiracy

He said the Kurds were seeking democracy and pluralism within a federal and united Iraq.

Iraq will remain united says
Hushyar Zibari

"There is no conspiracy here," he said. "Turkey should have no fears whatsoever about the future of Iraq remaining a friendly country to them, united but respecting the diversity of Iraqi society."

The Turkish statement called on the election board to seriously consider objections to the vote and urged the UN to take a "more active role" and ensure that "the flaws, the disorder and irregularities" of the poll were not repeated when Iraqis vote on a new constitution later this year.

Iraq's Shia Muslims won nearly half the votes in the nation's 30 January election, giving the community significant power but not enough parliamentary seats to form a government on its own.

Two key Kurdish parties gained just over a quarter of votes cast, giving them considerable support in the national assembly to preserve Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq.