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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005, 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK
Iraq voters back new constitution
Election official Farid Ayar announcing the results
The Iraqis' handling of the poll was endorsed by UN officials
Iraqis have passed their country's new constitution, according to official results from a referendum dismissed by the opposition but commended by the UN.

Sunni "No" campaigners had hoped to block it by taking two-thirds of the vote in at least three provinces, in line with electoral rules.

But they won in only two, with the swing province of Nineveh returning 44% "Yes" votes, the official count shows.

Hours before the result was announced a bomb killed 12 in the Kurdish north.

A second blast in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah wounded two people travelling in the convoy of a senior Kurdish politician.

Militant attacks were reported across Iraq:

  • The bodies of at least eight Iraqi border guards were found near the Saudi border blindfolded and with their hands bound behind their backs

  • The US military announced the deaths of two marines in a roadside bombing near Falluja on Friday

  • Bomb attacks claimed at least two lives in Baghdad.

'Farce'

In all, 78% of voters backed the charter and 21% opposed it in the vote on 15 October, electoral commission officials said.

Approval of the constitution clears the way for elections to a new Iraqi parliament in December.

People injured by a bomb in Baghdad on 25 October
With so many Sunnis unhappy... I don't see the insurgency scaling back in any way
Josh, Ames, IA, United States

Election official Farid Ayar described the vote as "100% correct" with "no cases of fraud that could affect the results of the vote".

The majority Shia community and Kurds strongly supported the constitution while the provinces where the poll was rejected by more than two-thirds of voters, Anbar and Salahuddin, are both strongly Sunni.

Sunni figures talked of widespread fraud after hearing the final results.

Saleh al-Mutlaq, part of a Sunni Arab team that negotiated the constitution, called the referendum a "farce" and accused government forces of stealing ballot boxes to reduce the size of the "No" vote.

A large body of Sunnis rejected a constitution they saw as enshrining their own loss of power and threatening the territorial unity of the country, BBC regional analyst Roger Hardy writes.

To recover from the pain and division associated with the constitution, our analyst adds, continued Sunni participation in the political process is not enough: there must also be enlightened self-interest on the part of the newly-dominant Shia and Kurds.

UN seal of approval

A senior United Nations official in Iraq, Carina Perelli, said the election had been conducted to the highest standard.

VOTE OVERVIEW
78% back charter, 21% reject
63% turnout
Majorities in 15 out of 18 provinces vote "Yes"
"No" vote majorities in two provinces - 96% reject constitution in Anbar, 81% in Salahuddin
No third province achieves required two-thirds majority to reject charter, though 55% vote "No" in Nineveh

"It has been audited, controlled - it has been done really in a very professional way," she said.

"The result is accurate. It has been checked according to the processes that we all follow when we have elections."

Laith Kubba, spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, told the BBC the results were a "victory for the political process".

"We have to deal with them as results that decided this matter and move on to the next stage," he said.

US President George W Bush welcomed news of the result as fresh proof that Iraqis meant to "build a democracy united against extremism and violence".

Delivering a speech to military wives in Washington, he said American troops in Iraq should "complete the mission and lay the foundation of peace by spreading freedom".

referendum map

FULL RESULTS BY PROVINCE
YES (%) NO (%)
Anbar 3.04 96.9
Babil 94.56 5.44
Baghdad 77.7 22.3
Basra 96.02 3.98
Dahuk 99.13 0.87
Diyala 51.27 48.73
Irbil 99.36 0.64
Karbala 96.58 3.42
Kirkuk 62.91 37.09
Maysan 97.79 2.21
Muthanna 98.65 1.35
Najaf 95.82 4.18
Nineveh 44.92 55.08*
Qadisiya 96.74 3.32
Salahuddin 18.25 81.75
Sulaimaniya 98.96 1.04
Dhiqar 97.15 2.85
Wasit 95.7 4.3
National total 78.59 21.41
*Two thirds majority required to reject the charter




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