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U.S. military death toll in Iraq reaches 2,000

Iraqi draft constitution passes, election officials say

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The war in Iraq saw two milestones Tuesday that reflect the country's path toward democracy and its human toll as officials said the referendum on a draft constitution passed and the number of U.S. military deaths reached 2,000.

CNN's count of U.S. fatalities reflects reports from military sources and includes deaths in Iraq, Kuwait and other units assigned to the Iraq campaign.

The U.S. military does not publish an up-to-date running tally of deaths.

Among the latest casualties, an American soldier was killed Saturday by a roadside bomb, and a roadside blast killed two Marines in combat Friday near Amariya in the western Anbar province, according to the U.S. military.

President Bush, speaking to military spouses at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, said the best way to honor the dead would be to complete the mission in Iraq.

"We've lost some of our nation's finest men and women in the war on terror," Bush said. "Each of these men and women left grieving families and left loved ones back home. Each of these patriots left a legacy that allowed generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty."

Since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, more than 15,000 American service members have been wounded in the conflict, according to the Defense Department.

According to CNN's tally, 2,194 coalition troops have died in the war.

Turnout was 63 percent
Iraqi election officials touted the passage of the draft constitution, voted on October 15 after months of contentious, painstaking negotiations by the 275-member interim National Assembly.

A representative from the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq said these are "final provisional figures" that need to be certified. (Full story)

Authorities with the commission said 9.85 million people voted in the referendum, about 63 percent of registered voters. More than 78 percent of voters backed the constitution, officials said.

"With their courageous vote the Iraqi people have once again proved their determination to build a democracy united against extremism and violence," Bush said.

While passage required a simple majority, there was one obstacle the measure faced -- if two-thirds of the voters in at least three of 18 provinces had rejected it, the draft would have failed.

Supporters of the referendum were concerned about the voting in several provinces with significant numbers of Sunni Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of Iraq's population and largely opposed the measure.

But figures show that the tally received a two-thirds "no" vote in only two provinces.

Anbar overwhelmingly voted against the document, with a "no" vote of 97 percent. In Salaheddin province, 82 percent rejected the charter.

On Monday, election officials said the vote count from the northern province of Nineveh would help determine the outcome. There was a "no" vote in Nineveh, but it was 55 percent.

In Diyala province, which has a slight Sunni Arab majority, 51 percent of voters said "yes."

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

Sunni Arab leaders actively boycotted the vote in January electing the National Assembly and found themselves with little voice in the interim government.

Government officials said they were gratified that Sunnis got involved in the political process this time, even though there was significant Sunni opposition to the draft. Shiites and Kurds have largely backed the constitution.

New parliamentary elections are set for December 15.

Other developments

Al Qaeda in Iraq took credit Tuesday for suicide bombings near two Baghdad hotels the day before that killed at least 10 people and wounded 22 others, according to a posting on an Islamist Web site. CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the claim.

Coalition forces have killed "several" insurgents in the western Iraqi town of Ushsh, the U.S. military said Tuesday. Six insurgents also were detained, according to a military statement. Ushsh is near Qaim, an Anbar town near the Syrian border.

A suicide bomber killed eight people, including five members of the Kurdish militia, and wounded 12 others in the northeastern city of Sulaimaniya, a political official said. Mula Bakhtiar, a high-ranking Patriotic Union of Kurdistan official, said three bombs struck Tuesday. Two of the bombs targeted Bakhtiar's convoy, wounding three guards.

Three Iraqi soldiers were killed Tuesday and one wounded when a roadside bomb struck an Iraqi army patrol in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora.

Gunmen killed two Iraqi police officers transporting detainees to Abu Ghraib prison in western Baghdad on Tuesday. Seven officers were wounded in the attack.

Two roadside bombs targeting U.S. military convoys exploded Tuesday in western Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood, killing two civilians and wounding five others, police said. No U.S. military personnel were wounded.
CNN's Saad Abedine, Ingrid Formanek, Nic Robertson and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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