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US, Iraqi Forces Step Up Security Ahead of Referendum

13 October 2005

Iraqi and U.S. forces are stepping up security throughout the country ahead of Saturday's national referendum on a new constitution.

Security forces are preparing to enforce a nighttime curfew, starting Thursday, local time. They are also preparing to close Iraq's borders, ban all travel between the country's provinces and erect barriers around polling stations.

U.S. and Iraqi troops are also continuing to raid suspected militant hideouts in Baghdad and other major cities.

Wednesday, Iraq's parliament endorsed last-minute changes to the draft constitution aimed at winning the support of minority Sunni Arabs in the referendum.

The measure enables parliament next year to consider amendments to the charter, if it is approved in Saturday's vote.

One of Iraq's top Sunni parties, the Iraqi Islamic Party, has promised now to back the draft, though other Sunni parties may continue to oppose it.

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani also urged voters to approve the draft.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.

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