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Iraq Transition

Iraqi constitution passes, officials say

Vote was close in key Sunni Arab province of Nineveh

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Nearly 10 million voters cast ballots, for a turnout of 63 percent.

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Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi draft constitution has passed, according to final results released Tuesday by Iraqi election officials.

More than 78 percent of 9.8 million voters in the October 15 referendum approved the document, officials said. Turnout was 63 percent of eligible voters.

Passage of the constitution, regarded as a key step toward the establishment of Iraqi democracy, paves the way for an election for a new Iraqi parliament in mid-December.

While approval required a simple majority, the measure faced one obstacle -- if two-thirds of the voters in at least three of Iraq's 18 provinces rejected it, the vote would have failed.

Supporters of the referendum had been concerned about the voting in several provinces with significant populations of Sunni Arabs, who were highly vocal in their opposition to the constitution ahead of the vote. Those provinces were Salaheddin, Anbar, Nineveh and Diyala.

Shiites and Kurds have largely backed the constitution.

"No" votes exceeded two-thirds only in two provinces, with 82 percent voting "no" in Salaheddin and 97 voting "no" in Anbar. Earlier figures indicated that votes in these provinces would result in high "no" votes.

In Nineveh, a key swing province in northern Iraq, 55 percent voted "no" -- below the two-thirds threshold that would have resulted in the measure's defeat.

More than 51 percent of the voters Diyala province, which has a slight Sunni majority, favored the constitution.

When questioned about extreme results, including a 99 percent "yes" vote in one Kurdish province, electoral officials said U.N. experts and Iraqi teams verified the results.

After the results were announced, Iraqi election officials held a vote certification ceremony.

CNN's Nic Robertson and Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report.

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