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Iraq - 2002-10-16

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein won 100 percent of the votes cast in Tuesday's referendum. According to Iraqi election officials, all of the more than 11 million eligible voters cast ballots, and every one of them answered "yes" to a new term for the president. The victory gives Saddam another seven-year term in office. VOA-TV’s George Dwyer has more on the Iraqi vote, and on related events in the possible UN confrontation with Iraq.

The outcome of this week’s referendum was never really in doubt. Government authorities tightly controlled the voting process, and there were no independent observers. Beyond that of course -- Saddam Hussein's name was the only one on the ballot.

Saddam won a 1995 referendum with 99.9 percent of the vote, but Iraqi officials indicated that this time they were seeking 100 percent, both as show of support for Saddam, and as a signal of Iraqi popular sentiment against the United States and Britain, which have threatened military action against the Iraqi regime.

On Wednesday the United Nations Security Council opened what is expected to be a long debate to give the rest of the U.N. membership a chance to air their views on the crisis over Iraq.

Many governments have already expressed reservations about possible unilateral military action by the United States against Baghdad, and some are opposed even if the Security Council approves the use of force.

A number of UN members have expressed concern that only a tiny minority of nations will be making what they consider a very critical decision that would affect everyone.

Last week both houses of the U.S. Congress authorized U.S. President George W. Bush to use military force – if necessary – to compel Iraq to get rid of his country’s weapons of mass destruction. Iraq continues to deny having weapons of mass destruction, which were banned under U.N. cease-fire terms following the 1991 Gulf War.

George Dwyer, VOA-TV.