Botnst - 10/16/2005 4:11 PM
Iraq constitution 'approved'
From: Reuters By Andrew Quinn And Mariam Karouny in Baghdad
October 17, 2005
IRAQI voters have probably approved a new US-backed constitution, overcoming fierce Sunni Arab opposition in a vote Washington hopes will boost its beleaguered Iraq strategy, results show.
Early counts from yesterday's referendum indicate the vote has split, as expected, along largely communal lines, reflecting the bitter ethnic and religious tensions that have cost thousands of Iraqi lives since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Tight security kept the polls mostly peaceful although five US soldiers were killed in the Sunni west, the military said.
Despite high turnout in some Sunni Arab areas, partial counts have suggested the charter's opponents did not muster enough 'no' votes to veto it. According to the referendum rules, a two-thirds no vote in three of Iraq's 18 provinces would block the constitution even if most Iraqis backed it.
"All indications we are getting ... are encouraging and positive for a yes vote for this constitution. This would be really a major achievement," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said. "So my guess is, yes, it will be passed."
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking in London as votes were counted in Iraq, said the constitution had probably passed - angering some Sunni leaders who accused her of pressuring Iraqi officials to fix the result.
Dr Rice later said the final tally was still not known, but that a 'yes' vote would help turn the tide against a Sunni Arab insurgency which has pushed Iraq close to civil war.
"The key here is the Sunnis have voted in large numbers. One way or another, the Iraqis will be in a position to move forward," Dr Rice said.
"You defeat an insurgency politically as well as militarily. It will take time... an insurgency cannot ultimately survive without a political base."
Five soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb that wrecked their vehicle in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, taking the number of Americans to die in the Iraq war to at least 1970.
A US statement gave no details, but Ramadi police reported that a Bradley fighting vehicle had been destroyed, suggesting the use of one of the more powerful devices that US commanders say insurgents have developed this year.
Electoral Commission chief Hussein al-Hendawi said turnout was running at 63-64 per cent, above the 58 per cent seen in January when many Sunnis boycotted the country's first elections after the fall of Saddam Hussein, who is a Sunni.
I'll say it again, just like I said it after the Iraqi elections. This is a great sign. I just hope that the situation on the ground improves along with it. They didn't after Saddam's statue was toppled, after Saddam was captured, after sovereignty was handed over, or after the elections. The appearance of progress is nice considering what we've been getting, but I'd like to see some less superficial progress.
As was said before, "Let's not start sucking eachothers' d!cks just yet!"