Niger backs free elections

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NIAMEY (Reuter) - Niger has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new constitution which calls for the first free elections since independence in 1960.

The National Elections Commission said yesterday that results were in from most of the 3,724 polling stations used in Saturday's referendum and that 89 per cent of votes were in favour of the new constitution. A national conference stripped President Ali Sabou of his powers last year and called for multi-party elections.

The government, fighting bankruptcy and an armed rebellion by Tuareg nomads, has announced an ambitious election timetable. Presidential and parliamentary polls are to be completed by the end of February.