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Bush: Interim Constitution Marks Historic Milestone for Iraq - 2004-03-08

President Bush says Iraq's new interim constitution marks an historic milestone in that country's transition from tyranny and violence to liberty and peace.

The president says the interim constitution is an important step toward sovereignty in Iraq.

In a written statement, he congratulates the Iraqi Governing Council and the Iraqi people. Mr. Bush says a lot of difficult work remains to be done on the path to democracy, but this document can help pave the way.

Members of Iraq's Governing Council signed the interim constitution Monday after weeks of wrangling and days of delays. Some members who represent Iraq's Shi'ite majority said they still have some reservations, but signed the document anyway because they see it as a way to help move the country toward sovereignty.

The president did not refer to their concerns in his statement, which was issued as he prepared to address political supporters in Dallas, Texas. But in that speech, he talked in general about the transition to democracy in Iraq.

"We are standing with the Iraqi people as they assume more of their own defense and move toward self-government," he said. "These aren't easy tasks, but they are essential tasks. We will finish what we have begun. We will win this essential victory in the war on terror."

American and Iraqi officials now have less than four months to put together a temporary Iraqi government that will assume control on June 30. That government will draft a permanent constitution and prepare for elections no later than January.