Rice, Annan Focus on Iraq's Political Progress
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2005 It's evident what Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, fears most, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Nov. 11 in Baghdad, Iraq.
"He fears the democratic process and the democratization of Iraq," Rice told Fox News during her surprise Veterans Day visit.
That's why Zarqawi and his followers have continued to threaten Iraqis whenever they have gone to the polls to advance the political process, she said. But despite those threats, Iraqis have defied them and taken their country's fate into their hands, Rice said. Some 8.5 million voted in January and 10 million in October, she noted.
Rice predicted similar success during the upcoming December 15 national elections. She urged all sects of Iraqi society to put their differences aside and come together to vote for their nation's future.
"I think you're going to have the first permanent government now," she said.
Today, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan also made a surprise visit to Baghdad, urging reconciliation ahead of the upcoming elections.
Annan was scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Deputy Prime Minister Rowsh Shaways, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and other political and community leaders.
The secretary-general said the United Nations supports all efforts to bring peace to the country.
Rice acknowledged Nov. 11 that terrorists continue to stymie that effort, particularly in light of political progress.
"They're threatening now because they know that as the political process goes forward here, it is harder and harder for them to spread their ideology of hatred," she said.
Rice visited Mosul, where she visited with political leaders, including Zalmay Khalizad, U.S. ambassador to Baghdad. From there, she traveled to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi and U.S. military and embassy officials.