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Bush Urges Iraqis to Defy Terrorists, Vote Sunday

President Bush is urging Iraqis to defy threats from insurgents and vote in Sunday's national election. Mr. Bush says it will be a grand moment for those who believe in freedom.

Four days before Iraqis go to the polls, President Bush went before the American people and declared his support for the election process.

He said many Iraqis want to vote, but acknowledged some feel intimidated.

"I urge all people to vote,” said Mr. Bush. “I urge people to defy these terrorists. These terrorists do not have the best interests of the Iraqi people in mind. They have no positive agenda. They have no clear view of a better future."

Mr. Bush said the insurgents have, in essence, declared war on their countrymen. But he vowed the elections will go forward, and predicted they will be successful.

"Millions of Iraqi voters will show their bravery, their love of country, and their desire to live in freedom," he added.

The president referred back to the inaugural address he delivered last Thursday, and its strong language on the power of freedom, and the need to combat tyranny. Speaking at the first news conference of his second term, and on the deadliest day yet for U.S. forces in Iraq, Mr. Bush stressed the need to look beyond the difficulties of the moment and focus on the long-term objective: spreading freedom.

"Otherwise, the Middle East will continue to be a cauldron of resentment and hate, a recruiting ground for those who have this vision of the world that is the exact opposite of ours," said Mr. Bush.

President Bush was then asked how he plans to promote his freedom agenda in countries with which the United States has strong economic or security ties. He said it is possible to maintain those relationships while pushing human rights. He made specific mention of his talks with Chinese and Russian leaders.

"In my talks, in my discussions with world leaders to solve the problem of the day, I will constantly remind them of our strong belief that democracy is the way forward," he noted.

Mr. Bush brushed off criticism of his foreign policy from Congressional Democrats, though he noted their comments may have caused some Iraqis to question America's commitment. He said critics and supporters alike need to look at this moment in history and put it in the proper context.

"After all, look what has happened in a brief period of time: Afghanistan, Palestinian elections, which I think are incredibly hopeful elections, as well as the Ukraine and now Iraq. We are witnessing amazing history," added Mr. Bush.

The president said he will have a great deal more to say about events both at home and abroad next Wednesday when he delivers his annual State of the Union address.