Queues began forming at the Fairfield polling centre in Sydney’s southwest before doors opened.

In Australia, nearly 12,000 Iraqi expatriates have registered to vote in the election to choose a national assembly that will appoint a provisional Iraqi government and write a new constitution ahead of future elections.

Voting in Australia will continue until 5 pm (AEDT) on January 30, while polling in Iraq will be held on Sunday only.

Despite being considered a low risk country, security screening of voters included the use of metal detectors and bag searches.

Security in Iraq, however, continues to be threatened as insurgents intensified their attacks on Iraqi and US targets.

At least 30 people have been killed in the past 24 hours.

In Samarra, a mainly Sunni Arab city north of Baghdad where US and Iraqi forces launched a massive operation last October to wrest control from insurgents, two suicide car bombings killed 11 people.

An Iraqi National Guard post in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, came under gunfire with four guards reportedly killed.

Supporters of Iraq’s most wanted man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, posted a video on the internet purportedly showing the execution of an election candidate from the party of US-backed interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

The man’s captors said they had killed Salem Jaafar al-Kanani, who was kidnapped in Baghdad on January 19.

In the past two months, Mr Allawi’s party has had 22 of its members killed, according to party official Imad Shbib who spoke to the AFP news service on January 11.

The Ansar al-Sunna group has issued a warning saying that its’ targeting of Iraqis involved in the general election would continue even after voting ends.

“If you escape before the elections, you will be hunted down after the polls,” the group stated, specifically naming the seven polling station directors.

Forty polling stations have been destroyed by insurgents, forcing officials to keep the locations of Iraq’s 5,578 remaining centres secret until just before voting begins.

Preparations, though, are well underway as the distribution of ballot boxes, voting papers and tens of thousands of bottles of indelible ink to mark voters’ fingers.

Almost 13 million Iraqis have registered to vote, along with an additional 280,000 Iraqis living abroad.

However, a boycott by the country’s Sunni Arabs may mar the poll.

Former US President Bill Clinton has called on Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority, which suffered persecution under Saddam Hussein, to reach out to those “who didn’t show up in the polls because they didn’t want to be blown away.”

“I think there’ll be an enormous obligation on the Shiites and the Kurds and the others who are elected in the areas where there’s no problem, to make sure that the constitutional system they set up fairly represents all the religious and tribal groups of Iraq,” Mr Clinton said, from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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