Iyad Allawi, Iraqiya leader: "Iran is interfering quite heavily"
Iyad Allawi, the man who won Iraq's parliamentary elections, has accused Iran of trying to prevent him from becoming prime minister.
The leader of the secular alliance that narrowly won this month's poll told the BBC that Tehran was interfering directly in Iraq's electoral process.
His Iraqiyya bloc beat the rival State of Law alliance of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki by just two seats.
Both the UN and US envoys to Iraq have said the 7 March poll was credible.
But Mr Maliki has said he will challenge the count through the courts.
Despite winning the election, Mr Allawi is a long way short of the majority he needs to form a government, says the BBC's Andrew North in Baghdad.
Much of his support came from Iraq's Sunni minority, our correspondent adds, but most of the parties he would need to back him represent Iraq's Shia majority, and have close ties to Iran.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Allawi said it was "very clear" that Iran was trying to stop him from becoming prime minister.
I'm afraid Iraq will be driven towards civil collapse or a regional war, other people are more optimistic, believing Iraq can be rebuilt
Afaf, 21, from Baghdad
Iraqi voters' uncertainty lingers
"Iran is interfering quite heavily and this is worrying," he said.
He accused the Iranian government of interfering by inviting all the major parties to Tehran for talks, except his own Iraqiyya bloc.
"They have invited everybody - but they haven't invited us - to Tehran," he said.
He said he was concerned Tehran was also influencing a commission that has been vetting candidates for ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath party, which may disqualify more of his supporters.
Some are likely to see Mr Allawi's comments as an excuse for the possibility he may not be able to form a government, says our correspondent.
While many Shias backed him, others are suspicious of his past links to the Baath party.
The Iranian embassy in Baghdad declined to comment.
According to final results published by Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), Mr Allawi's secular Iraqiyya bloc won 91 of the Council of Representative's 325 seats, 72 short of a majority.
Mr Maliki's State of Law came second with 89 seats, followed by the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) on 70, and the Kurdistan Alliance with 43.
Iraqiyya's narrow victory means Mr Allawi, a Shia, will be given the first opportunity to form a coalition government.
If he fails to do so within 30 days, Iraq's president will ask the leader of another bloc.
There is concern that a challenge to the election result could be lengthy and divisive, endangering progress towards greater stability.
Sectarian violence erupted in 2005 as politicians took months to form a government after the last parliamentary election.
Who are the main players?
A large number of political groups and alliances have competing for the support of Iraqi voters. Here are some of the main ones:
• State of Law coalition
This alliance is led by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and ostensibly cuts across religious and tribal lines.
• Iraqi National Alliance (INA)
This mainly Shia alliance is seen as one of the biggest rivals to the prime minister's coalition and includes the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
• Kurdish alliance
The Kurdish coalition is dominated by the two parties administering Iraq's northern, semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
• Al-Iraqiyya (Iraqi National Movement)
This alliance includes the national Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, former prime minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shia, and senior Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq, who has been barred from standing.
• Unity of Iraq Coalition
This group brings together a range of significant political figures, including Interior Minister Jawad Bolani and a leader of the Sunni anti-al-Qaeda militia in al-Anbar province, Ahmad Abu-Risha.
• Iraqi Accord Front/Al-Tawafuq Front
The Iraqi Accord Front, an alliance of parties led by Sunni politicians, has recently suffered splits and defections. It includes the Speaker of parliament Ayad al-Samarrai.
• Tribal leaders
Tribal leaders will play an important role in the election and have been courted by major parties. Some Sunni tribal leaders sprang to prominence when US forces began backing local leaders against al-Qaeda in 2006.
Smaller minorities, including Turkmen, Christians, Yazidis, Sabeans, Shabak and others, are likely to ally with bigger electoral lists in areas where they are not dominant.