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Fate of Iraqi Constitution Hinges on Province Where Balloting Under Review


In Iraq, election officials say partial results from last week's referendum show that a majority of voters have approved Iraq's new constitution. But voters in two predominantly Sunni provinces have overwhelming rejected it, meaning that the fate of the new constitution hinges on one of four provinces where the balloting is being reviewed.

Iraqi Election officials Monday said official results from 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces show 76 percent of voters approved the draft constitution. But they say 96 percent of voters in al-Anbar province and 81 percent of voters Salaheddin province rejected it.

Election Official Abdel-Hussein al-Hindawi, said as a result, the outcome of the referendum depends on one of four provinces, or governorates, where votes are being reviewed.

"Through (from) these results, it seems that the success of the constitution depends on the results of the governorate of Nineveh," he said.

For the constitution to be approved, a majority of Iraq's 15 million voters must vote yes, which appears to have occurred. But the document can be defeated if two-thirds of the voters in three provinces reject it, which occurred in al-Anbar and Salaheddin. Nineveh and its capital, Mosul, are home to a large population of

Sunni Arabs who oppose the draft constitution.

The Sunnis, who dominated the government under deposed President Saddam Hussein, largely opposed the draft constitution which they fear will lead to the break-up of Iraq.

The majority Shi'ite Arab group and the independence-minded Kurds largely support the new constitution, which will provide their regions with a great deal of autonomy.

The spokesman for one of the Sunni parties that participated in the referendum, Saleh al-Mutlaq of the National Dialogue Council, says his group does not accept the referendum results.

"We feel that this constitution is illegitimate and the referendum was not done in a correct way," he said. "Therefore we want the referendum to be repeated in four provinces at least."

Iraqi election officials acknowledged there were some irregularities, but said the referendum was monitored by international observers who praised the process overall.

If approved, the new constitution provides for elections in December to elect a parliament which will replace the transitional assembly elected in January. Many hope the new elections will bring stability to Iraq, but others fear that it will only strengthen the insurgency which has killed thousands of people since the fall of the Saddam regime.

More than 60 Iraqis and five American soldiers have been killed in attacks in the past several days. On Monday, bombs exploded outside two hotels in downtown Baghdad, causing a number of casualties. The hotels house many foreign journalists and contractors.