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Powell Says U.S. is Committed to Full Iraqi Elections

By Samantha Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2004 – Secretary of State Colin Powell told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday=," today that Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi and the U.S. are committed to full, free Iraqi elections.

"I think the American people want to see what we want to see, and that is for the Iraqi people to have a free, open, fair election, for their forces to be built up for our reconstruction money to be used well and for Iraqi security forces to take over so we start bringing our troops home," Powell said.

He pointed out that Allawi had said during his Washington visit last week that there has been a great deal of progress made. Powell said that the Iraqis are moving forward, opening schools and holding municipal elections. But they're fighting a tough insurgency, an insurgency that must be defeated.

A National Intelligence Estimate released in late July, in Powell's words, set forth a sober assessment of potential alternative outcomes for the situation in Iraq, ranging from tenuous stability to civil war.

"(The estimates) always tend to focus on sort of the worst case so that policy makers can think about worse cases responses." he said. "But I think there are many alternatives into the future and the best alternative, the one we're pursuing and the one that really is achievable, is to continue fighting this insurgency which is going to get harder because these individuals are determined that the Iraqi people will not have a free election, that they're going to go back to the past to the days of dictatorship and totalitarianism.

"And we cannot allow them to succeed. If there is one thing we all agree on, the international community agrees on, is that these thugs and murders cannot be allowed to succeed. So there are some tough days ahead. There's tough fighting ahead."

Powell defended the President Bush's comment made earlier in the week that the NIE's assessment was a guess, saying that he had meant "estimate". He said an NIE provides potential courses of action to be taken into consideration to influence events. He emphasized that none of those courses is simply followed.

Powell said there is talk of a regional summit, to include Iraq's neighbors and the G-8 group of countries to work on building support for Iraq's January elections. The idea was Allawi's, he said, dismissing any implication of ties to the U.S. presidential election.

Discussion of such meetings would entail why it is in the best interest of Iraq's neighbors for there to be a stable, non-threatening Iraq, Powell said. Also, discussion would focus on how the industrialized community, represented by the G-8 countries, can assist in creating a stable Iraq.

However, Powell said, the first step to creating that stability is full elections.

"I think it has to be throughout the country. We don't need a 100 percent turnout of every single citizen," he said. "But I think it has to be seen as a comprehensive, full, free and fair election in order to get the kind of credibility we want it to have."

Powell admitted there the days ahead will be rough, but says in the end, the Iraqis will get to choose their own leaders and write and ratify their own constitution. Then, having built up the Iraqi forces, American troops can begin to withdraw.

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Secretary of State Colin Powell

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