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Learning Democracy Is Iraq's Biggest Challenge, Bremer Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2003 – The biggest challenge facing Iraq is putting in place a new democracy, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer said today.

"The big challenge the Iraqi people have now is to get a broad political dialogue going, to get a big debate about the future of Iraq," the coalition administrator said during an interview with the American Forces Radio and Television Service today.

The Iraqi people must learn how to do that peacefully and inclusively. Saddam Hussein dominated Iraq for more than 30 years and democratic niceties certainly weren't observed during his reign. Since the coalition liberated the country, many Iraqis have embraced freedom, but they also need to embrace the responsibilities a democracy entails. "They need to start thinking about what a democratic Iraq means," Bremer said.

On June 30, 2004, the coalition will transfer sovereignty to an Iraqi transitional government. That group will write the new Iraqi constitution and in 2005, a new government will take hold in the country.

Bremer said coalition authority personnel and coalition military personnel will do all they can to encourage that Iraqi dialogue. He noted there will be town hall meetings, focus group meetings, televised debates, and discussions with sheiks and imams and business men and women throughout the country in the next few months.

"The challenge is to get that debate going, to get that discussion going," he said.

There are more than 100 "good news" stories in Iraq each day, Bremer pointed out. That's how many projects coalition military personnel complete.

"In the last six months we have completed over 17,000 individual reconstruction efforts all over Iraq," he said. "Most of these have been done by the men and women in the armed forces, who are doing small but important things -- painting schools, fixing generators at hospitals cleaning up playgrounds, building orphanages.

"I wish more of the press would go out and visit some of these sites and see all of the good will that's being created by all of these projects."

Bremer would not comment on the number of coalition forces that will remain in Iraq after the coalition returns sovereignty in June. He said, however, that he expects coalition forces will still be needed. There are 160,000 Iraqis in the security forces today. And while the coalition is working to beef up those forces, they will not be ready to shoulder the entire security burden, he said.

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