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U.S., Iraqis Working to Prevent Civil War

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2006 – The United States is doing all it can to prevent civil war from breaking out in Iraq, but it's ultimately up to Iraqis to maintain political and security progress, President Bush said here today.

Bush said he believes Iraqis have chosen democracy as their preferred path, as evidenced by their three successful elections in 2005. "It wasn't all that long ago that 11 million people went to the polls, ... that people defied assassins, car bombers, threats, and said: 'We want a democracy,'" Bush said at a conference of the National Newspaper Association.

Iraqis recently passed the first real test of the effectiveness of their new government, as well, Bush said. Widespread violence and killing followed a February attack on Samarra's Golden Mosque, a famous Shiite shrine, but the government called for calm and security forces have performed admirably in the attack's aftermath, he said.

Relative calm was maintained in 16 of Iraq's 18 provinces, and most of the violence took place in the Baghdad area. "The society took a step back from the abyss, and people took a sober reflection about what a civil war would mean," Bush said.

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, the president described the U.S. government's three-part plan to build an enduring democracy and quell violence in Iraq.

The first part of the strategy calls for using politics to achieve goals in Iraq. Peaceful elections with strong turnout are a promising sign on this front, Bush said. "The Iraqi people have said loud and clear in not one election but three elections during the past year (that) they want freedom," Bush said. "Eleven million people went to the polls in the face of terror and threats."

Secondly, Iraqis must take the fight to the enemy. "It's up to Iraq to make the decision," Bush said. "They made the political decision, and now it's up to them to make the decision to defend their own security against those who would stop the march of democracy."

The plan's third aspect is economic development. "That includes wise reconstruction efforts, creation of a central bank, a sound currency, small businesses," Bush said.

"And if we don't lose our nerve," he added, "I'm confident we'll achieve our objectives."

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