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Kyrgyzstan voters approve constitution

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, June 27 (UPI) -- Voters in violence-wracked Kyrgyzstan Sunday approved a new constitution limiting presidential power and creating a parliamentary republic.

About two-thirds of voters turned out with no apparent violence two weeks after ethnic clashes killed at least 278 people in southern Kyrgyzstan and forced another estimated 400,000 people, mostly ethnic Uzbeks, from their homes in the region, Radio Free Europe reported.

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Interim leader Roza Otunbayeva got the nod from voters to serve as president until the end of next year. She is ineligible to run in the October 2011 presidential election.

"This is a historic day for our republic. We believe the referendum was valid and a new constitution has been adopted despite fierce opposition from adversaries of this constitution," Otunbayeva said at a news conference.

"More than half the country's citizens voted in the referendum, meaning our people have put a decisive end to the era of authoritarian rule."

Turnout was highest in the capital, Bishkek, and northern provinces, and much lower in the south, election officials said.

Government officials said about 7,500 police officers and 7,500 were providing security at polls.

The winner of the 2011 election takes office in January 2012.

Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks began fighting June 11 in Osh in clashes that lasted several days and spread to the neighboring Jalalabad region. Officials put the death toll at 275 but Kyrgyz leaders say it could be 10 times higher. More than 2,000 people were injured in the violence and dozens were missing.

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