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US Lawmakers Hail Zarqawi Death

Members of Congress are welcoming the death in a U.S. air strike in Iraq of terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, calling the event a new opportunity for progress in Iraq.

Lawmakers reacting to the death of Zarqawi praised U.S. military forces, and expressed hope the development could give Iraq's new government and its people a new chance for peace.

In the House of Representatives, speaker after speaker took to the floor describing Zarqawi as a bloodthirsty terrorist responsible for the brutal deaths of Iraqis and foreigners.

"I commend U.S. and Iraqi forces for this extraordinary accomplishment," said Mike Pence, a Republican from Indiana. "The leading enemy of freedom in Iraq is dead. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi is gone, let freedom reign in Iraq."

House Majority Leader John Boehner spoke to reporters.

"The elimination of the terrorist Zarqawi represents another important milestone achieved for the Iraqi people and the global war on terror. It is an important tangible success, and Americans today, I think, are safer as a result," he said.

Other reaction came from House Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi, who praised U.S. forces for finding Zarqawi as well as the filling of two important posts in the Iraqi government.

"I salute the efforts of the American troops who worked tirelessly to track down the terrorist Zarqawi," she said. "His death and the naming of the Iraqi defense and interior ministers, should hasten the day when Iraqis take responsibility for their security and American troops can come home."

While there was widespread praise in Congress for U.S. military forces and the intelligence efforts that went into the air strike that killed Zarqawi, some lawmakers used the development to renew calls for a plan to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq.

"We need to declare victory with the Zarqawi killing and this is a time too [to] also declare that the Iraqi government has completed the formation of its cabinet and we can start withdrawing our troops," said Diane Watson, a California Democrat.

Asked if it was premature to suggest that the elimination of Zarqawi could help speed the departure of U.S. forces, House Democratic leader Pelosi said it should be viewed in conjunction with the appointment of Iraqi defense and interior ministers.

That was echoed by Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist. He said both developments are major steps forward, adding that while major challenges remain he is more optimistic than ever that a free and stable Iraq can be achieved.

There was also this reaction from Senator John Cornyn.

"Our intelligence and military forces have demonstrated their exceptional abilities and reminded us yet again that through patience and resolve we will continue to win the war on terror and advance the cause of freedom around the globe," he said.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, said that while the killing of Zarqawi is a significant step forward in the fight against radical Islam and its campaign of terror, the job is far from complete.