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Myers Stresses Importance of Jan. 30 Elections

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec. 15, 2004 – Since the retaking of Fallujah, there has been a decrease in attacks throughout Iraq, officials said. But officials are unsure what this means, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he expects the attacks to increase as the Jan. 30 election approaches.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told Arab media here it is important that the elections are held on time. "It's important to have the elections on time," he said at the headquarters for the Navy's 5th Fleet. "If you don't, you give all the leverage to those who are facilitating or supporting the insurgents."

Myers visited sailors and Marines at the headquarters and traveled with a United Service Organizations holiday tour to the USS Harry S. Truman, an aircraft carrier anchored off shore.

"We think for the security of the Iraqi people, for the security of the Iraqi forces, for the security certainly of the coalition forces that elections must happen on time," he told local reporters. The general did not comment on proposals to hold the Iraqi elections in phases. He said that is entirely up to the Iraqis themselves.

Myers said that the main insurgent threats are former regime elements, Baathists, members of Saddam Hussein's intelligence organization, Republican Guardsmen and others close to Saddam Hussein and his former regime. "The last thing they want is elections," he said. "With those elections, they've lost any little bit of legitimacy that in their own minds they still have."

He said the insurgents have killed more Iraqi men, women and children than they have Iraqi security forces or coalition forces. "They are people who would take Margaret Hassan, kidnap her and then eventually kill her," he said, referring to the U.N. worker who dedicated her life to helping Iraq. "These are ruthless people who know no moral boundaries and they'll do anything to keep Iraq from being democratic."

Myers said terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is probably the leader of most of the foreign fighters and some Iraqis. He is unable to budge the coalition, so he is willing to incite civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq, Myers said. "We know he is capable of absolutely anything in his very extremist view of Islam and the world."

The chairman said the coalition has captured many of his lieutenants, "and of course we have a big search on for Zarqawi himself."

Reporters questioned Myers on Iran's role in the region, especially with Iraq. The chairman said all neighbors should help Iraq get back on its feet. He said a healthy Iraq would be good for the region and the world.

"As Iraq is trying to get itself on its feet and reshape itself into some sort of democracy, it is not helpful to have neighbors who are not giving them all the support they can give," Myers said. "It is very difficult work for the Iraqis. They've got to have the support of the countries that border them in their efforts. That includes Syria and Iran."

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Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF

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