WASHINGTON With obvious relief, President Bush made a five-minute public statement after the polls closed in Iraq yesterday, calling the elections there a resounding success.
Standing in the Cross Hall of the White House, which joins the State Dining Room and the East Room, Mr. Bush addressed TV cameras and could not resist several smiles of triumph as he said, The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East.
He noted that Iraqis went to the polls in great numbers and under great risk, showing their commitment to democracy.
By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists. They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and assassins, the President said.
He acknowledged the Middle East experts who warned yesterday there is much to do in Iraq.
We will continue training Iraqi security forces so this rising democracy can eventually take responsibility for its own security, he said. That seems to be an indication that he does not expect the new government in Iraq to demand that American and coalition forces leave Iraq. Last week he said in an interview with the New York Times that if the new government insists Americans leave, they will do so.
He also referred to the loss of life by American and British military personnel yesterday in Iraq. Their sacrifices were made in the vital cause of freedom, peace in a troubled region, and a more secure future for us all, the President said.
He said more than 100,000 Iraqi security forces helped make the election possible by guarding polling places and said they conducted operations against terrorist groups. The number of trained Iraqi forces has been a controversy for weeks; many Democrats in Congress have said they do not accept the administration s figure than more than 100,000 Iraqis have been trained.
There were few negative voices about the vote itself yesterday. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.), constant critic of the Bush policy in recent weeks, issued a statement saying: We are all moved by the bravery of the Iraqi people who voted in today s election, and we honor the courageous men and women of our armed forces who continue to risk their lives for a better future for the Iraqi people.
Contact Ann McFeatters at: email@example.com or 202-662-7071.