The Bush administration says an all-out effort will be made to secure troubled parts of Iraq before scheduled elections in January. Officials acknowledge the job will not be easy, but stress it can be done.
With violence continuing in several Iraqi provinces, the Bush administration is emphasizing that the goal of free and fair elections is still attainable.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared on several television networks in the United States, making the administration's case.
On the Fox News Sunday program, he said there will be problems. He said insurgents will continue to pose a challenge, but will not succeed in their efforts to derail democracy.
"Now, this is not to say that there won't be attacks on polling stations, or there may be some places where it will be hard to have those elections, and maybe individuals will have to go somewhere else to vote. [I] don't know. But it is premature to judge that we cannot have full, free elections throughout the country," said Mr. Powell.
Last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said elections should go ahead, but may be impossible in some areas where the violence is too great. Mr. Powell told ABC's This Week that tougher action will be taken in areas where insurgent activity is on the rise.
"The reason why it is getting worse is they are determined to disrupt the election," explained Mr. Powell. "They do not want the Iraqi people to vote for their own leaders in a free, democratic election. And because it is getting worse, we will have to increase our effort to defeat it, not to walk away and pray and hope for something else to happen."
The chief U.S. military commander in Iraq, General John Abizaid, says he is confident violence can be reined in before the elections. But he told NBC's Meet the Press it will be a struggle.
"We are going to have to fight our way all the way through elections. And there will be a lot of violence between now and then," said General Abizaid.
The war in Iraq is a top issue in the current U.S. presidential campaign. Democratic nominee John Kerry says the administration is trying to portray the situation there in the best possible light, and is not telling Americans the true story.
Senator Kerry also suggests that Iraq's interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, painted a far too rosy picture during his recent visit to Washington. But one of Mr. Kerry's supporters, Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, says everyone realizes that the prime minister faces a daunting task, as he seeks support for his country. Mr. Biden told Fox News Sunday that he carried a message to the Iraqi leader from Senator Kerry.
"I said, 'I guarantee you, if John Kerry is president, you will continue to have the full support of the United States of America in order to be able to establish a representative republic.'"
President Bush and Senator Kerry will likely focus on Iraq when they meet on Thursday for the first of their three campaign debates. The event, which will deal only with foreign policy issues, will be held in Miami, Florida.