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These doctors at a Baghdad hospital were among those allowed to vote early today 13 October 2005 -- U.S. and Iraqi forces stepped up security across the country today ahead of Iraq's constitutional referendum on 15 October.

Authorities have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew and also announced a four-day national holiday starting today, closing government offices and schools. Tomorrow the country's borders will be sealed and travel among provinces will be stopped.

On 15 October, Iraqis nationwide will get a chance to cast their votes either to approve or reject the constitution. Detainees in U.S. and Iraqi-run jails began voting on the document today.

Iraq's parliament yesterday approved a set of last-minute amendments to the draft in a compromise aimed at gaining Sunni Arab support for the document. At least one Sunni group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, has agreed to back a "Yes" vote in return for the promise of a review of the constitution.

Prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has urged Iraqis to vote "Yes" in the referendum.

(AFP/AP)

For RFE/RL's full coverage of the 15 October constitutional referendum in Iraq, see "Iraq Votes: Constitution Referendum"

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