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Constitution Affirming Independence Overwhelmingly Passes in Nagorno-Karabakh

Election officials say voters in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan have overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that affirms the area's independence.

The head of the region's election commission, Sergei Nasibyan, said Monday that 98 percent of those voting in Sunday's referendum favored the constitution. Voter turnout was about 86 percent.

The balloting took place on the 15th anniversary of the 1991 referendum in which the region's majority ethnic Armenian population backed independence.

A declaration of independence in 1988 triggered a six-year war that claimed 35,000 lives. A ceasefire has been holding since 1994, but tensions persist.

The international community does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh's independence. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has been seeking to mediate the dispute. In a statement Monday the group called the referendum counterproductive for efforts to settle the ongoing conflict.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.