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US Lawmakers Praise Iraqi, Palestinian Elections

The House of Representatives has adopted resolutions praising the recent Iraqi and Palestinian elections, calling them signs of change in the Middle East. This came just hours before President Bush's State of the Union address, which is also expected to mention the elections.

Proclaiming that the world is safer when democracy replaces tyranny, the House resolution congratulates Iraqis and members of a yet-to-convene transitional national assembly.

It says Iraqis defied what the resolution calls an "ultimately fruitless attempt" by the terrorist insurgency to prevent the people of Iraq from exercising their right to choose their own leaders.

On the floor of the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans spoke in support of the resolution.

Congressman Tom Lantos says while votes are still being counted, it is clear democracy won in Iraq.

"We have seen people choose freedom over tyranny repeatedly during the past 15 years in country after country," he said. "But Iraqis voted in unprecedented circumstances, literally risking life and limb, merely to exercise the privilege that most of us take for granted, and many of us don't even exercise."

House Republican Majority leader Tom DeLay joined in the praise. "The victory of human freedom over human oppression, of good over evil is why we are here," he said. "Last Sunday morning, the people of Iraq showed the world that humanity's will to freedom knows no borders."

The resolution notes that what it calls a "regrettably large number of Iraqis" were victimized by insurgents, with some losing their lives while attempting to vote, and expresses condolences to the families of those killed.

It says the election paves the way for the newest democratically-elected legislature in the world, and offers the support of Congress for the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly.

In a separate resolution Wednesday, the House also congratulated the Palestinian people for conducting what it called a free and fair presidential election earlier this month.

Noting the election of Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority, the resolution calls the vote a big step towards democracy in the Arab world.

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Middle East Subcommittee, emphasized, however, this places responsibility on Palestinians to do everything they can to bring an end to terrorist violence:

"This resolution is a reflection of our support for President Bush when he stated the United States stands ready to help the Palestinian people realize their aspirations," she said. "The onus is on the Palestinian leadership to demonstrate that they are committed to moving peace forward by bringing an end to Palestinian terrorism."

The House resolution reiterates the U.S. commitment to the security of Israel and its well-being as a Jewish state.

It calls on Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to take immediate steps to dismantle the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, confiscate unauthorized weapons, arrest and bring terrorists to justice and end incitement to violence and hatred in the Palestinian media, educational institutions, mosques and other institutions.

The House resolutions were both adopted by voice vote, just hours before President Bush's State of the Union address.