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Elections Mark Turning Point in Iraqi History

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2005 – "Tomorrow the world will witness a turning point in the history of Iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom, and a crucial advance in the war on terror," President George W. Bush told the nation and the world today in his weekly radio address.

Bush said Iraqis continue to prepare for Jan. 30 elections and campaign for their candidates even though they face assassination, brutal violence and calculated intimidation.

"They know what democracy will mean for their country: a future of peace, stability, prosperity and justice for themselves and for their children," the president said.

He quoted a Baghdad resident as saying, "This election represents what is possible. To me, it's the start of a new life."

The election in Iraq is also important for America because this "nation has always been more secure when freedom is on the march," Bush said.

"As hope and freedom spread, the appeal of terror and hate will fade," he continued. "And there is not a democratic nation in our world that threatens the security of the United States. The best way to ensure the success of democracy is through the advance of democracy.

"Tomorrow's vote will be the latest step in Iraq's journey to permanent democracy and freedom," the president said.

Those elected to Iraq's transitional National Assembly will help appoint a new government that will fully and fairly represent the diversity of the Iraqi people, Bush said. The assembly will also draft a permanent constitution that will be put to a vote of the Iraqi people this fall.

"If approved, a new nationwide election will follow in December that will choose a new government under this constitution," Bush noted.

On the Jan. 30 national ballot, voters will choose from nearly 19,000 candidates competing for seats in the Transitional National Assembly, in the country's 18 provincial councils, and in the Kurdistan National Assembly, the president said.

"The terrorists and those who benefited from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein know that free elections will expose the emptiness of their vision for Iraq," Bush said. "That's why they will stop at nothing to prevent or disrupt this election."

Bush said Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi -- who has planned and ordered many car bombings and beheadings in Iraq -- recently declared "a fierce war against" democracy in Iraq.

"He denounced as infidels all who seek to exercise their right to vote as free human beings," the president said. "Yet in the face of this intimidation, the Iraqi people are standing firm. Tomorrow's elections will happen because of their courage and determination. All throughout Iraq, these friends of freedom understand the stakes."

As democracy takes hold in Iraq, America's mission there will continue, the president said. "Our military forces, diplomats and civilian personnel will help the newly elected government of Iraq establish security and train Iraqi military police and other forces," he said. "Terrorist violence will not end with the election. Yet the terrorists will fail, because the Iraqi people reject their ideology of murder."

Over the past year, successful elections have been held in Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Georgia, Ukraine and the Palestinian territories, the president noted.

"In countries across the broader Middle East, from Morocco to Bahrain, governments are enacting new reforms and increasing participation for their people," he said.

Bush said Iraq's election will add to the momentum of democracy. He noted that an Iraqi speaking about the upcoming vote said, "Now, most people feel they are living in darkness. It is time for us to come into the light."

"Every Iraqi who casts his or her vote deserves the admiration of the world," Bush said. "And free people everywhere send their best wishes to the Iraqi people as they move further into the light of liberty."

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