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Bush Firm on Iraq Election Date


President Bush says the Iraqi election scheduled for January 30 should not be postponed. The president says it is important for the vote to take place on time.

Prominent Sunni Muslim politicians in Iraq say national elections should be delayed due to security concerns. But President Bush does not agree.

"The elections should not be postponed," said President Bush. "It is time for the Iraqi citizens to go to the polls. And that is why we are very firm on the January 30 date."

His comments came just one day after the U.S. Defense Department announced it would increase the number of American troops in Iraq to 150,000, the highest level since the start of the war 19 months ago.

During a brief question and answer session while posing for photos with visiting Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr. Bush was asked if the increase shows the security situation is not stable enough for elections to occur.

He said he approved the increase after his commanders in the field told him what was needed to make sure the elections could take place. The president also spoke of efforts to speed up training of Iraqi forces.

"And we want to help them have their presidential elections," he said. "And at some point in time, when Iraq is able to defend itself against the terrorists who are trying to destroy democracy, as I have said many times, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned."

The president predicted that on election day, many people will be amazed by the rapid transformation of Iraq from a country of tyranny and torture to one where people can express themselves with a ballot.