Iraq awaits referendum result
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Iraqi referendum workers count votes Sunday in Baqouba, Iraq.
updated 10/17/2005 1:43:17 PM ET 2005-10-17T17:43:17

Iraq’s electoral commission said Monday it intended to audit “unusually high” numbers in results coming from most provinces in Saturday’s landmark referendum on the draft constitution.

The commission’s statement came after Sunni Arab lawmaker, Meshaan al-Jubouri, claimed fraud had occurred in the vote — including instances of voting in hotly contested regions Saturday by pro-constitution Shiites from other areas — repeating earlier comments made by other Sunni officials over the weekend.

“Statements coming from most governorates indicating such high numbers that require us to recheck, compare and audit them, as they are unusually high according to the international standards,” the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq said in a statement.

The commission said it would take random samples from ballot boxes from areas reporting very high or very low percentages. It did not specify which provinces the unusual reports were coming from, or say to what extent it could affect the outcome.

Further delaying the count and the posting of final results, a sandstorm swept over Baghdad and grounded air travel into the capital. Vote tallies still have to be flown in from the provinces.

Meanwhile, U.S. 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, the military. Residents said at least 39 of the dead were civilians.

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