Bush Promises Allawi U.S. Will Stand by Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 23, 2004 President Bush today vowed to stand by the Iraqi people, following a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi at the White House.
During a press conference following the meeting, Allawi said he and Bush had discussed plans to ensure democratic elections in Iraq take place in January 2005. "And we discussed the importance of maintaining the strength of the coalition and the support of the international community in helping us to succeed," the prime minister said.
Allawi also had words for the nations of the coalition: Don't negotiate with terrorists. "I know it is difficult, but the coalition must stand firm," he said. "When governments negotiate with terrorists, everyone in the free world suffers. When political leaders sound the sirens of defeatism in the face of terrorism, it only encourages more violence.
"Working together, we will defeat the killers," he said. "And we'll do this by refusing to bargain about our most fundamental principles."
Bush complimented Allawi for all he and his government have accomplished since he took office June 28. "These have been months of steady progress despite persistent violence in some parts of your country," the president said. "Iraqis and their leaders are engaged in a great and historic enterprise to establish a new democracy at the heart of a vital region."
Bush said the United States will stand by the Iraqi government in opposition to extremists who use suicide bombs, beheadings and other horrific acts to try to block progress. "We're sickened by the atrocities, but we'll never be intimidated. "And freedom is winning," Bush said.
Bush said the coalition is making steady progress on the five-step goal.
He said the first step was the return of sovereignty in June. The second step is to help Iraq's new government establish stability and security. U.S. and NATO leaders are training Iraqi security forces. Bush said that there are nearly 100,000 fully trained and equipped Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel. This will rise to 125,000 by the end of this year.
The third step is to improve Iraq's infrastructure. "On television sets around the world we see acts of violence, yet in most of Iraq children are about to go back to school, parents are going back to work, and new businesses are being opened," the president said.
"Over 100 companies are now listed in the Iraqi Stock Exchange, and an average of five new companies are joining each week," he continued. "Electricity has been restored above prewar levels. Telephone service has increased dramatically. More than 2,000 schools have been renovated and millions of new textbooks have been distributed."
The fourth step is to draw more international help to Iraq. Thirty nations already provide forces to Iraq. The United Nations has re-established its mission in Baghdad; NATO has agreed to help train Iraqi security forces; and the G-8 member nations are working to alleviate Iraq's debt burden. Allawi called on Iraq's "Arab brothers" to help his nation.
The final step is to help Iraq conduct free, national elections no later than January 2005. "An Iraqi electoral commission is now up and running and has already hired personnel and is making key decisions about election procedures," Bush said. "Just this week, the commission began a public-education campaign to inform Iraqis about the process and encourage them to become voters."
U.N. election officials are in Iraq, but more are needed, Bush said. He and Allawi have asked the United Nations to provide the personnel needed to conduct those elections.