Vote counting continues in Iraq after a landmark referendum on the country’s new constitution.
It is widely believed Iraqis said “yes” to the charter but final results are not expected before next week. In schools and government buildings around the country, ballots are being counted before being loaded onto lorries and taken to the capital Baghdad for a final count. Voting took place amid relative calm as security forces applied draconian safety measures following months of bloodshed by Sunni insurgents. Five US soldiers were killed in the western city of Ramadi on Saturday when their vehicle was the target of a rocket attack. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose country backed the document, has praised the high turnout which is estimated at more than 60 percent. Iraqis questioned in the street said the vote was well organised: “Nobody forced us to say yes or no, we were able to choose,” said one man. “People from the electoral committee helped us by explaining some elements of the constitution,” said another. If the charter is passed, Iraq will go to the polls again in December to elect a new parliament. A “No” vote would force the country’s warring Shi’ite and Sunni factions back to the negotiating table, limiting December’s election to a new interim government.