IRAQ: Saddam Hussein won a perfect 100 per cent of votes in a referendum for a new term as president of Iraq, according to official results."Our leader President Saddam Hussein, may God preserve him and look after him, has won 100 per cent of the votes of eligible voters," said Saddam's top deputy Izzat Ibrahim, reading official results at a news conference in Baghdad.
Saddam was the only candidate in the referendum.
Ibrahim, vice-chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, said all 11,445,638 Iraqis eligible to vote had done so and every single one of them answered Yes to another seven-year term for Saddam, who was appointed president in 1979.
"This result is real, whether some like it or not," he said. "Tell Bush we chose Saddam as our leader forever," said a motorist, shouting from his car window and honking his horn.
"The referendum was not only a communal feast, it was a unique mass Iraqi demonstration that challenged the Bush administration and its threats, terror and blackmail," the official al-Thawra newspaper said in an editorial. "It shows Iraqis stand firmly behind their leader and predicts the fate of any adventurous aggression Bush might unleash."
In a first referendum in 1995, Saddam won 99.96 per cent of the vote. As results of Tuesday's vote were broadcast on Iraqi television, soldiers and ruling Ba'ath Party members across Baghdad fired automatic rifles into the air in celebration. "My feelings are just like others: We love Saddam Hussein and we will die for him as martyrs," said one man celebrating in the capital.
The US dismissed the vote and said it lacked any credibility. "It is not even worthy of our ridicule," said US State Department spokesman Mr Richard Boucher.
Celebrations began in earnest overnight after initial results from government-controlled television stations said several polling centres in Baghdad and the provinces returned 100 per cent "Yes" votes.