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Bush: Iraq Elections Must Take Place As Scheduled

President Bush held a round of high-level meetings on Iraq Monday - consulting with Iraqi Interim President Ghazi al-Yawar and Jordan's King Abdullah.

President's Bush's message throughout the day was the same: Iraq's national election must take place as scheduled, despite an increase in violence.

"I believe it's necessary for the Iraqi people to vote on January the 30th because it provides an opportunity for people to participate in democracy," he said.

Speaking just hours after terrorists struck the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Mr. Bush stressed that the United States will not be intimidated. He said America will continue to support efforts to bring democracy to the region, adding a free society in Iraq would be a major defeat for terrorism.

"I think that the capacity of these killers to stop an election would send a wrong signal to the world, and send a wrong signal to the Iraqi people, themselves," he said.

Iraq's interim president referred to the insurgents as "the armies of darkness." Ghazi al-Yawar said the Iraqi people are determined to move forward.

"Victory is not only possible, it is a fact," he said. "We can see it. It is there. We are committed. We see that we have all the reasons to prevail."

Mr. al-Yawar is a prominent Sunni Muslim. But while he strongly supports the election, other leaders of the Sunni community in Iraq have said the security situation warrants a delay. Increasing pre-election violence has prompted the U.S. Defense Depart to raise its troop level in Iraq from 138,000 to 150,000.

Speaking to reporters as he left the White House, the Iraqi interim president said the increase is necessary to help ensure the election takes place as scheduled.

"And we think this will be the first harvest of the effort of liberating Iraq," he said.

A few minutes later, Jordan's King Abdullah arrived at President Bush's office to continue the discussions on Iraq. His talks with Mr. Bush also focused on the Middle East peace process and prospects for upcoming Palestinian elections.