Iraq: Voter comments at polls around on day of constitution referendum

Here are some voices from Iraq's constitutional referendum (by AP).

"The constitution is a sign of civilization. We consider this a day of great achievement. This constitution has come after heavy sacrifices. It is a new birth." _ Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari after casting one of the first ballots in Baghdad after Iraq's polls opened at 7 a.m.

"America will not run, and we will not forget our responsibilities. We have stood by the Iraqi people through two elections, and we will stand by them until they have established a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself." _ U.S. President George W. Bush in his weekly radio address taped before the vote started.

"That's been our principal concern, that the Iraqis have this opportunity to go and voice their views on this constitution. That's what they are doing." _ Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters as she flew from Moscow to London.

"The government can't just sew together an outfit and dress the people up by force. We do not see ourselves or see our future in this draft. The Shiite and Kurdish authorities who drafted it are promoting their own interests, not those of all Iraqis." _ Gazwan Abdul Sattar, 27, a Sunni Arab teacher voting in northern city of Mosul.

"I followed the advice of Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, our great cleric. He said to vote 'yes' and he knows what is best for us." _ Jalal Fuad, 35, a self-employed Shiite, who voted in Baghdad even though he had not read the draft constitution.

"I hope they have a really big turnout. The closer they get to independence, the closer we get to going home." _ U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Sam Smithson of Sacramento, Calif., as he helped guard the entrance of a polling station in Sunni city of Haditha, where few cast ballots.

"The more successful the political process is, the faster the (Americans) will leave." _ Fallujah police chief Salah Khalil.

"This voting is for my future, the future of my children, my family and the rest of the Iraqi people. It is a new law and a new constitution and I have, yes, voted for it." _ Jalal Keo, Iraqi National Guard soldier, voting in the southern Shiite city of Basra.

"The U.N. is here to help the Iraqi people, to help them determine their future." _ Carina Perelli, director of the Electoral Assistance Division of the United Nations, speaking in Baghdad.

"Sunni Arabs closed themselves out of the political process by boycotting January's election. That was a big mistake. We must all go to the polls and vote today against a constitution that would cancel out this country's Arab identity." _ Harith Abdul Karim, 46, a Sunni who voted in Fallujah. The Associated Press reports.


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