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Bush: Iraqi Elections Should Not Be Postponed

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2004 – President Bush said today that elections in Iraq, scheduled for January, should go forward as planned.

"It's time for the Iraqi citizens to go to the polls," Bush said at the White House before a meeting with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The president noted several things U.S. and coalition forces are doing to ensure the elections take place on time. Pentagon officials announced Dec. 1 that more than 10,000 U.S. forces will have their tours extended in Iraq, including two Army brigades and a Marine expeditionary unit.

In addition, two brigades of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., will deploy in December on 120-day tours in Iraq. These changes will bring to roughly 150,000 the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to provide security and stability during the election period.

"I have always said that I will listen to the requests of our commanders on the ground," Bush said about the changes in troop rotations and numbers. "And our commanders requested some troops delay their departure home and the expedition of other troops to help these elections go forward, and I honored their request."

Also, U.S. and other coalition military forces are working to ensure Iraq security forces are fully prepared, with training and equipment, to provide security in their own country and enable people to safely travel to polling places.

"The idea, of course, and the strategy, of course, is to have the Iraqis defend their own freedom," Bush said. "And at some point in time, when Iraq is able to defend itself against the terrorists who are trying to destroy democracy, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned."

Bush said he is looking forward to peaceful elections in Iraq. "It's one of those moments in history where a lot of people will be amazed that a society has been transformed so quickly from one of tyranny and torture and mass graves to one in which people are actually allowed to express themselves at the ballot," he said.

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