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Draft Constitution adopted by Iraqi voters
(AP)
Updated: 2005-10-25 19:43

Iraq's landmark constitution was adopted by a majority of voters during the country's Oct. 15 referendum, as Sunni Arab opponents failed to muster enough support to defeat it, election officials said Tuesday.

Results released by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq showed that Sunni Arabs, who had sharply opposed the draft document, failed to produce the two-thirds "no" vote they would have needed in at least three of Iraq's 18 provinces to defeat it.

Nationwide, 78.59 percent voted for the charter while 21.41 percent voted against, the commission said. The charter required a simple majority nationwide with the provision that if two-thirds of the voters in any three provinces rejected it, the constitution would be defeated.

"Whatever the results of the referendum are ... it is a civilized step that aims to put Iraq on the path of true democracy," Farid Ayar, an official with the electoral commission, said before reading the final results.

Two mostly Sunni Arab provinces Salahuddin and Anbar had voted against the constitution by at least a two-thirds vote. The commission, which had been auditing the referendum results for 10 days, said a third province where many Sunnis live Ninevah produced a "no" vote of only 55 percent.

Ninevah had been a focus of fraud allegations since preliminary results showed a large majority of voters had approved the constitution, despite a large Sunni Arab population there.

Election commission officials and U.N. officials, who also took part in the audit, "found no cases of fraud that could affect the results of the vote," Ayar said.

The constitution, which many Kurds and majority Shiites strongly support, is considered another major step in the country's democratic transformation, clearing the way for the election of a new Iraqi parliament on Dec. 15. Such steps are considered important in any decision about the future withdrawal of U.S.-led forces from Iraq.

Many Sunni Arabs fear that the constitution will create two virtually autonomous and oil-rich mini-states of Kurds in the north and Sunnis in the south, while leaving many Sunnis isolated in poor central and western regions with a weak central government in Baghdad.

Some fear that the Sunni Arab loss in the referendum could influence more of them to join or support Sunni-led insurgents who are launching attacks across the country against Iraq's mostly Shiite and Kurdish government and U.S.-led forces.



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