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Rice: Iraq Still Has Much to Overcome After Elections

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2005 – Iraq faces a very tough political road now that national elections are over, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today.

"The Iraqis are clearly in a very intense political process following their elections," Rice said on the NBC news program Meet the Press. "They have a lot of divisions to overcome, divisions that were really exacerbated by Saddam Hussein's reign."

Rice was responding to a question from host Tim Russert, quoted reports on Iraqis' frustration and wondering why they risked their lives to vote. It has been six weeks since the historic general elections in Iraq and no new government has been formed in the country.

Rice said it's interesting to note that pressure to form a government is now coming from the Iraqi people. She added that an Iraqi transitional assembly is to be seated later this week, something she feels is a direct result of pressure from voters to begin to get the government established.

"From all reports, they are getting close, and I suspect that they will form a government fairly soon," Rice said. "But this is now an Iraqi process, and we have to respect that process."

The fact that one of the leading contenders to become prime minister of Iraq's interim government, Ibrahim Jafari, head of the Dawa Party, may have a terrorist past does not concern Rice. She said that he is an elected official who seems to want a better future for Iraq and that the United States would work very well with him.

"In all my conversations with people who know him well, including in the conversation that I had with him, he seems devoted to trying to make this one Iraq which is representative of and respectful of all Iraqis and an Iraq which will be a fighter in the war on terrorism," Rice said. "He has been very tough on the kind of terrorist activity that has been carried out by people like (Jordanian terrorist leader Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi)."

Regardless of Jafari's past, Rice said, what is most important is that he was elected to the assembly by the Iraqi people.

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Biographies:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice


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