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Bush Is Optimistic About Iraqi Elections

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2005 – Iraq's upcoming elections will prove to be "an incredibly hopeful experience for the Iraqi people," President Bush told reporters today at a White House news briefing.

The Jan. 30 nationwide elections, Bush added, should be viewed as an opportunity for Iraqis "to express their beliefs and opinions" after more than two decades living under a brutal dictator.

Regarding ongoing security initiatives in Iraq to facilitate the elections, Bush noted it's the U.S. military's job to help provide Iraqis "the best chance they can to vote and to participate."

It's evident, Bush noted, that insurgents in Iraq "are trying to stop people from voting" in four of Iraq's 18 provinces.

The reason insurgents are trying to stop Iraqis from going to the polling booths, Bush pointed out, "is because they understand that democracies stand in the exact opposite to what they believe."

Bush compared insurgents in Iraq to the Taliban in Afghanistan and said they were "just like (Osama) bin Laden."

Some had predicted a low turnout during last October's voting in Afghanistan, Bush recalled. However, millions of Afghans went to the polls, he said, and Hamid Karzai was elected president.

"And, the first voter was a woman in a country where women had been savaged by the former government run by the Taliban," the president said.

January's elections in Iraq represent "a big moment for the Iraqi people," Bush said. Iraq's voters will elect representatives for the national assembly, he noted, who will then craft the nation's constitution.

Bush said the United States is looking forward to working with the new Iraqi government and to "help train Iraqis as fast as possible" to assume security throughout the country.

America stands "with those who love freedom," Bush declared. "And, we'll stand with those who want to vote."

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