Iraq introduces night curfew ahead of referendum

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Iraq closed its borders and instituted a night-time curfew on Thursday to prevent insurgent attacks ahead of the October 15 constitutional referendum, as Iraqi politicians projected that a deal reached late Tuesday would ensure the passage of the constitution.

At least seven people were reported killed in incidddddents across the country, but the death toll has been substantially less than in previous days in an indication that the clampdown might be discouraging insurgent strikes.

Private vehicles will be banned from Friday night, a measure that during January's parliamentary elections was credited with preventing guerillas from using their deadliest weapon, the car bomb, from disrupting voting.

Carina Perelli, international commissioner for Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission, said that polling stations set up across the country, with mobile teams ready to be dispatched if the regular poll workers did not show up on election day, a development that prevented some voters in restive Sunni areas from casting ballots in January.

Meanwhile, security detainees and other prisoners held in Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons and hospital patients cast early ballots for the referendum. Election officials had earlier said that deposed president Saddam Hussein was eligible to vote, but Ms Perelli could not confirm whether any individual prisoner had cast a ballot.

Iraqi politicians expressed confidence that a deal reached between the Shia and Kurdish parties which dominated the drafting process and the country's largest Sunni Arab party would ensure the document's passage.

Following the deal, under which parliament would revisit and possibly amend the constitution next year, the Iraqi Islamic Party has dropped its opposition to the constitution and now urges its followers to vote “yes,” other Sunni Arab movements continue to advocate either a “no” vote or a boycott.

Among the Shia, aides to the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said on Thursday that following deal, Iraq's most influential religious leader now advocates a “yes” vote, adding to the likelihood of a large Shia turnout in favor of the draft.

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