President Bush says this month's elections in Iraq will ultimately bring stability to the country, despite continuing violence in the run up to the vote.
President Bush says it is an exciting time for the Iraqi people as they approach an election that he calls "an amazing development in history," following the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Bush is optimistic the election will take place as scheduled, as he says 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces appear to be relatively calm.
More than half the country's people live in the remaining four provinces. There, the president says, enemies of freedom are trying to intimidate voters.
"These are people who want to try to impose their will on people," said President Bush. "These are people just like the Taleban, just like Osama bin Laden, who have this dim vision of the world who say that if you do not agree with us, then you are of no count. And they are trying to stop people from voting. And the job of the United States military is to do the best job we can to give every citizen the best chance they can to vote."
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mr. Bush said a U.S. military assessment team is headed to Iraq to make sure American policy dovetails with the elections and their outcome. He said the goal is to have a focused, determined strategy to help the new government raise and train the forces necessary to defend itself.
As violence continues ahead of the vote, some members of Iraq's Sunni minority say the country is not secure enough to hold an election on January 30. At least one Sunni party has already announced a boycott and several Sunni groups have said they want the poll postponed because of security concerns.
Mr. Bush says it is important for all Iraqis to help elect a national assembly that will write a new constitution. "Well, I want everybody to vote, and I understand that parts of the Sunni area are being targeted by these killers," he said. "And their message is: 'If you vote, we will kill you.' But their real message is: 'We can't stand democracy.'"
The president says the United States will stand with what he calls "those brave citizens in Iraq who want to vote" because the way to defeat terrorism, he says, is to be aggressive in the spread of freedom.
Public doubts about the election continue to be heard in Baghdad and Washington. Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security advisor for Mr. Bush's father, President George Herbert Walker Bush, says he is pessimistic about the chances for Iraqi democracy.
In comments published in Friday's Washington Post, Mr. Scowcroft said rather than turning out to be a promising turning point, the vote has what he says "the great potential for deepening the conflict" by further dividing the country's Shiite and Sunni Muslims.