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Iraqi Electoral Workers to Audit Results

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051017/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq Iraqi Electoral Workers to Audit Results By LEE KEATH, Associated Press Writer 19 minutes ago BAGHDAD,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 17, 2005
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051017/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq

      Iraqi Electoral Workers to Audit Results

      By LEE KEATH, Associated Press Writer 19 minutes ago

      BAGHDAD, Iraq - Election workers announced "unusually
      high" vote counts in Iraq's landmark referendum on the
      draft constitution, saying Monday that they will audit
      results showing unexpected ratios of "yes" to "no"
      votes from some parts of the country.

      Word of the unexpected results came as the U.S.
      military said its warplanes and helicopters bombed two
      western villages Sunday, killing an estimated 70
      militants near a site where five American soldiers
      died in a roadside blast. Residents said at least 39
      of the dead were civilians.

      President Bush said he was pleased that Sunni Arabs
      cast so many ballots in Saturday's election. Asked
      whether the Sunni vote would damage the political
      process or increase the likelihood of violence, Bush
      said the increased turnout was an indication that
      Iraqis want to settle disputes peacefully.

      "I was pleased to see that the Sunnis have
      participated in the process," Bush said. "The idea of
      deciding to go into a ballot box is a positive
      development."

      But a Sunni Arab lawmaker, Meshaan al-Jubouri, joined
      other Sunni officials in claiming fraud. He cited
      instances of voting in hotly contested regions by
      pro-constitution Shiites from other areas.

      Iraq's Electoral Commission announced that numbers
      from most provinces "were unusually high according to
      the international standards" and so would "require us
      to recheck, compare and audit them." The commission
      said it would take random samples from some ballot
      boxes to check the results.

      An official with knowledge of the election process
      said that in some areas the ratio of "yes" to "no"
      votes seemed far higher or lower than would be
      expected. The official cautioned that it was too early
      to say whether the figures were incorrect or what
      caused the unusual results.

      The commission and the official did not say what
      regions had the curious returns.

      Voting was believed to have been highly polarized
      between Sunni Arabs, who largely oppose the charter,
      and Shiites and Kurds, who supported it. The main
      electoral battlegrounds were provinces with mixed
      populations, two of which went strongly "yes."

      The province of Diyala, for example, is believed to
      have a slight Sunni Arab majority. But reports from
      electoral officials there on Sunday reported a 70
      percent "yes" vote and a 20 percent "no."

      However, Iraq has not had a census for more than 15
      years, so judgments of the exact sectarian balance are
      difficult.

      Further delaying the count and the posting of final
      results, a sandstorm swept over Baghdad on Monday,
      grounding air travel. Vote tallies still have to be
      flown in from the provinces, and workers at the
      central counting center were still examining results
      only from the capital and its outskirts.

      Figures reported by elections officials in the
      provinces to The Associated Press indicated the
      constitution appeared to have passed, with the Sunni
      Arab attempt to veto it falling short.

      The acceptance of the constitution would be a major
      step in setting up a democratic government that could
      lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But
      Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Sunday that
      violence will continue, even if the constitution is
      adopted. She said support for the insurgency would
      eventually wane as the country moves toward democracy.

      On Saturday, a roadside bomb killed five U.S. soldiers
      in a vehicle in the Al-Bu Ubaid village on the eastern
      outskirts of the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi. On
      Sunday, a group of about two dozen Iraqis gathered
      around the wreckage; they were hit by U.S. airstrikes,
      the military and witnesses said.

      The military said the crowd was setting another
      roadside bomb when F-15 warplanes hit them, killing
      about 20 people it described as "terrorists."

      But several residents and one local leader said they
      were civilians gathering to gawk at and take pieces of
      the wreckage, as often occurs after an American
      vehicle is hit. U.S. troops had closed off the area
      Saturday, so Sunday morning was the first chance for
      people to go near it.

      Tribal leader Chiad Saad said the airstrike killed 25
      civilians. Several others said the same, although they
      refused to give their names for fear for their safety.

      The other deaths occurred in the nearby village of
      Al-Bu Faraj.

      The military said gunmen opened fire on a Cobra attack
      helicopter that spotted their position. The Cobra
      returned fire, killing about 10. The men ran into a
      nearby house, where gunmen were seen unloading weapons
      before an F/A-18 warplane bombed the building, killing
      40 insurgents, the military said.

      Witnesses said at least 14 of the dead were civilians.
      After a man was wounded in an airstrike, he was
      brought into a nearby building that was struck by
      warplanes, said the witnesses, who refused to give
      their names out of fear for their safety.

      An Iraqi journalist reporting for AP said he later saw
      the 14 bodies and the damaged building.

      Associated Press Television News video showed the dead
      included two children and one woman. Witnesses said
      seven other children were among the dead. APTN also
      showed two children among the wounded.

      Few voted in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, on
      Saturday — either fearing militants' reprisals or out
      of opposition to the charter.

      A U.S. Marine was also killed by a bomb Saturday in
      Saqlawiyah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, the military
      said. Since the war began in 2003, at least 1,976 U.S.
      service members have died, according to an AP count.

      On Monday, a drive-by shooting killed two policemen in
      Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, and a suicide
      bomber attacked a funeral for a sheik in Samarra, 60
      miles north of Baghdad, killing two civilians and
      wounding one, police said.

      The violence raised to 535 the number of people who
      have died in insurgent attacks across Iraq in the last
      three weeks leading up to the referendum.

      Many Sunnis fear the new decentralized government will
      deprive them of their fair share of the country's vast
      oil wealth by creating virtually independent
      mini-states of Kurds in the north and Shiites in the
      south, while leaving Sunnis isolated in central and
      western Iraq.

      Opponents failed to secure the necessary two-thirds
      "no" vote in any three of Iraqi's 18 provinces,
      according to counts that local officials provided to
      AP. In the crucial central provinces with mixed ethnic
      and religious populations, enough Shiites and Kurds
      voted to stymie the Sunni bid to reject the
      constitution.

      The Sunni "no" campaign appeared to have made the
      two-thirds threshold in Anbar province, the vast
      western Sunni heartland where Ramadi is the capital,
      and in Salahuddin, where Sunnis hold a large majority
      and as many as 90 percent of voters cast ballots. But
      in two other provinces where Sunni Arabs have only
      slim majorities — Ninevah and Diyala — the "yes" vote
      apparently won out.

      If the constitution indeed passed, the first full-term
      parliament since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003 will
      install a new government by Dec. 31 following Dec. 15
      elections. If the charter failed, the parliament will
      be temporary, tasked with drawing up a new draft constitution.
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