EU welcomes Iraqi constitution adoption

The European Union welcomed the adoption by voters of Iraq's new constitution Tuesday, and urged Iraqis to come out in large numbers in parliamentary elections slated for December. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the approval of the constitution "is an important step in the development of a democratic, stable and inclusive Iraq.

"The Iraqi people have shown again their determination to defy the terrorists and take part in the democratic process. Nearly 10 million people voted, a 63 percent turnout," Straw said in a statement, released by EU headquarters in Brussels.

Electoral officials in Baghdad said 78.59 percent voted for ratification, and 21.41 percent voted against.

Election commission officials and U.N. officials, who also took part in the audit of the Oct. 15 referendum, found no cases of fraud.

The constitution, which many Kurds and majority Shiites strongly support, but which Sunni Arab opponents failed to defeat, is considered another major step in Iraq's reconstruction.

It clears the way for the election of a new Iraqi parliament on Dec. 15. "It is vital that there is maximum participation across all parts of Iraq in the elections," Straw said.

The EU, while initially divided on the U.S. led-war in Iraq, has rallied behind reconstruction efforts in previous months.

Last week the EU said it would provide Ђ30 million (US$36 million) to help pay for the December elections.

The announcement raised the EU's overall funding for United Nations-organized elections this year to Ђ80 million (US$96 million). The EU granted Ђ31.5 million (US$37 million) toward Iraq's general elections in January and Ђ20 million (US$24 million) for this month's constitutional referendum.

EU officials said the 25-nation bloc would continue its support in 2006 for the political transition with another Ђ200 million (US$239 million). That amount, still subject to approval by EU governments and the European Parliament, is meant to build good governance in Iraq.


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