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Official Cites Tough, But Surmountable, Challenges for Iraqis

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2005 – The Iraqi people won't have an easy time setting up a new national government, but they are resolved to surmount all difficulties, a senior Defense Department official said here today.

"One of the big challenges that's in front of the Iraqi people is seating a government that reflects and respects the views of all the Iraqi people, and doing it in a way in which all Iraqis can feel included in the political process," DoD spokesman Bryan Whitman told Pentagon reporters.

Whitman had responded to a reporter's question about alleged discord among some of Iraq's Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions in the wake of the Dec. 15 nationwide elections.

The Pentagon spokesman said recent rhetoric put out by some Iraqi groups is illustrative of the political landscape of the new Iraq.

"What you are seeing is all factions -- Sunnis, Kurds, Shiites -- are all talking, and they're talking to each other," Whitman said. "And they are working out their differences through a political process and not through violence."

On Dec. 15 Iraqis voted for new members to sit in the country's 275-member, four-year national assembly, or parliament. Votes are still being counted, but the election is widely acknowledged as a success, with 68 percent of registered Iraqis having cast their ballots.

It's also acknowledged that Shiite-backed candidates likely will constitute the majority of the new parliament. Shiites account for around 60 percent of the Iraqi population, while Kurds and Sunnis each make up about 20 percent.

Forming the new government, Whitman said, is an Iraqi challenge. But, "the coalition will continue to be there to provide the type of environment, along with the Iraqi security forces, to allow that process to take hold and to get traction," he said.

"Nobody has ever claimed that this was going to be something that is easy," Whitman said. "But, one only has to spend a few hours in Iraq to really understand the dedication and how committed the Iraqi people are to making this work, too."

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