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Iraq Taking Steps to Promote Security During Elections

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2005 – The interim Iraqi government is taking active steps to reduce the likelihood of violence on election day while encouraging Iraqis to vote, Iraq's minister of state for national security told Pentagon reporters today during a videoconference from Baghdad.

Kasim Daoud said several security measures will go into effect Jan. 28 and continue through Jan. 31, the day after the elections. These include a curfew, limitations on vehicle movement, restrictions on civilian travel between provinces, increased vehicle searches and a ban on carrying weapons.

In addition, to reduce the risk of attacks on polling centers, vehicles won't be permitted near polling areas, and measures are in place to prevent too many people from gathering at any one voting site at one time, Daoud said.

"All of these are measures to protect the people who are going to participate," he pointed out.

Iraqi security forces will be out in force to enhance security, with multinational forces serving as backups to be called in if needed, he said.

Iraqi and U.S. leaders agree that violence is likely during Iraq's first free elections in more than six decades. Saddam Hussein loyalists and Islamic fundamentalists remain active in four of the country's 18 provinces, and Daoud acknowledged that they are likely to do everything in their power to try to stop the democratic process from moving forward.

The elections aren't likely to bring an immediate end to the insurgency, he said, but noted that the Iraqi government is moving forward with a range of other measures that also play a big role in promoting long-term security. These include improving the economy and educational and social systems, providing good health services, social security and jobs and moving forward with the reconstruction process.

In addition, Daoud said Iraq and the multinational forces continue recruiting and training Iraq's security forces, although he declined to put a timetable on when those forces will be ready to assume full responsibility for the country's security. The focus right now is on "quality, not quantity," he said, and in creating an Army that's loyalty to the state, not to any one political figure.

While efforts continue to increase Iraq's security, Daoud said insurgents continue to enter the country from both Syria and Iran. So far, diplomatic pressure hasn't successfully stemmed their flow, Daoud said, but he said the Iraq's interim government is hopeful that both countries will eventually recognize that instability in Iraq threatens the entire region's stability.

Daoud said these insurgents stand alone in opposing Iraq's upcoming elections.

Tribal leaders, social and religious figures, the political parties and others are united in encouraging the people to exercise their right to vote. The Iraqi interim government is providing security, logistical support and other needs of the independent Iraqi Electoral Commission.

"And the only exception from this is the Saddamists and terrorists trying to stop the process," he said. "And definitely we are going to succeed and they are going to [go down in] defeat."

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