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Bush Declares Iraqi Elections a Success

President Bush says the people of Iraq have taken control of their destiny and are on the path to freedom. The president says they have shown courage and commitment.

President Bush says the Iraqi election was a resounding success.

"Today, the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East," said Mr. Bush.

The president says Iraqis showed great courage in casting their ballots. He says they defied threats of violence, and refused to be intimidated.

"In great numbers, and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy. By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists," he said.

In a brief statement broadcast from the White House, Mr. Bush stressed this election is but a first step, and there is a great deal of work yet to do. He said Iraqis have shown their determination to build a free country, and must now move forward.

"This historic election begins the process of drafting and ratifying a new constitution, which will be the basis of a fully democratic Iraqi government," he added. "Terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage their war against democracy, and we will support the Iraqi people in their fight against them."

The new U.S. secretary of state says a primary goal will be training Iraqi forces so the country can ultimately defend itself. Appearing on the Fox News Sunday television program, Condoleezza Rice said U.S. commanders in the field were pleased with their performance on election day.

"We have to get to the point where this is Iraq's fight for Iraq, the fight of Iraqis for their own freedom. And I think this is what you are seeing today," said Mr. Rice.

All this comes at a time when the Bush administration is urging the U.S. Congress to approve an additional $80 billion for military operations.

During an interview with NBC television's Meet the Press, Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, openly questioned the president's Iraq policy. He noted that in areas of Iraq dominated by Sunni Muslims, voting turnout was light.

"It is hard to say that something is legitimate, when whole portions of the country can't vote and doesn't vote," he commented.

But Bush administration officials say they believe the Sunnis will be brought into the governing process. Ms. Rice told CNN's Late Edition that leaders of the Shiite Muslim and Kurdish communities have stressed the importance of building a government that represents all the people of Iraq.

"And they understand what we should know, that their Sunni brethren, if they were unable to vote, it was not because they did not want to vote, but because of the intimidation," said Ms. Rice. "So, I am sure they will have a process moving forward that takes account of everyone's interests."

She went on to say the Iraqis have shown remarkable bravery, and the world needs to show more faith in them and their future.