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Bush Says Iraq's January Elections Mark Crossroads

President Bush says the Iraqi elections must go ahead as scheduled, and the United States will do all it can to provide security for voters and election officials. Mr. Bush spoke after getting updates from American officials in Baghdad and Iraqi Interim President Ghazi al-Yawer.

President Bush says during their telephone conversation Tuesday, President Ghazi al-Yawer expressed concern about the security situation in places like Mosul, and stressed that Iraqis want to vote in elections planned for late January.

"And so the task at hand is to provide as much security as possible for the election officials, as well as for the people inside cities like Mosul, to encourage them to express their will," he said.

Speaking to reporters at his Texas ranch, Mr. Bush said security matters also dominated a subsequent videoconference with members of his national security team, including top military and diplomatic officials in Baghdad. When asked if he was concerned that Iraq's Sunni Muslims might boycott the election, he noted that the Iraqi president is a Sunni. Mr. Bush said to his knowledge, only one Sunni party was talking about a boycott.

President Bush then brought up the latest statement from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden calling for a boycott of the election. Mr. Bush said that message makes the stakes very clear. He said Osama bin Laden envisions a world where people do not participate in democracy.

"His vision of the world is one in which there is no freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and/or freedom of conscience. And that vision stands in stark contrast to the vision of, by far, the vast majority of Iraqis and leaders like Prime Minister Allawi and President Yawer, whose vision includes the freedom of expression, the freedom of the right to vote," said President Bush.

The president did not refer directly to the latest insurgent violence in Iraqi, including an attack on Iraqi police forces that took dozens of lives. Instead, he stressed that Osama bin Laden's vision must not prevail, and the elections must proceed.