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'Amazing' Things Happening in Iraq, Rumsfeld Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

NICE, France, Feb. 9, 2005 – The political process during and after Iraq's Jan. 30 national-assembly election has been "amazing to watch," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

The secretary is here to attend an informal meeting of NATO's defense ministers, and spoke with reporters in his traveling party between bilateral meetings.

"If you think about it, the big concern was nobody would vote," he said. "Well, the fact is millions voted. The second concern is the Sunnis wouldn't vote. Well, the fact is a lot of Sunnis voted, and there were Sunnis on most of the ballots."

Rumsfeld said it's been "terrific" to hear the words of leading contenders for key positions in Iraq who represent Shiias and Kurds and their respective internal factions. "And every one of them is saying, 'We've got to reach out to the Sunnis. We've got to negotiate with them (and) bring them in,'" he noted. "I have seen (in intelligence reports) a number of Sunnis who say they made a big mistake by not participating."

The Sunnis make up only about 20 percent of Iraq's population but ran the country for 35 years, "and there have got to be some folks in the country who didn't particularly like how it was run," Rumsfeld said, noting a case can be made for leaders in the Shiia majority to feel that now it's their turn. "There's none of that that I've seen from any of the Shiia leadership. They are almost uniformly saying, 'We should reach out to the Sunnis.' And that's a good thing."

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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