Iraq vote will be held nationwide, U.S. says

Bush plays down remarks by Rumsfeld that election may not include all areas

September 25, 2004|By COX NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - The White House said yesterday that President Bush has no question that Iraq will have free, fair and legitimate elections as scheduled in January, playing down comments from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld a day earlier that partial elections would be better than none.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage also said the United States intends for Iraqi elections to go ahead as scheduled, with all areas of the country included.

Rumsfeld told a Senate committee Thursday that it is possible the Iraqi election may be limited because violence still rages in some areas, which could make it impossible for balloting to take place throughout the country. "So you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Asked about the Rumsfeld comment yesterday, Armitage said that "of course" the election should include all of Iraq and offered a comparison to American politics. He told a House Appropriations subcommittee, "I wouldn't want to leave California out of an election in the United States, or Wisconsin."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters traveling with the president to a campaign event in Wisconsin that Bush is confident about Iraqi elections by the end of January.

"Everybody said there will be free and fair elections. That's what Prime Minister [Ayad] Allawi talked about yesterday," McClellan said, referring to the Iraqi leader's visit to Washington.

Certain areas of Iraq, including the city of Fallujah and parts of Baghdad, are no-go areas for Iraqi security forces and the U.S. military because they are controlled wholly or in part by insurgents.

Successful national elections are seen by many as vital for Iraq's development. Bush administration officials have said repeatedly that much of the violence under way is aimed at preventing voting and Iraq's transition to democracy.

Others, including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, have questioned whether elections can be held unless greater stability is achieved throughout Iraq and the insurgent strongholds are removed.

Rumsfeld may have tempered his remarks when he told reporters yesterday that the U.S. and Iraqi governments intend to do "everything possible" to see that the elections are held and that "every Iraqi has the right to vote."

When asked whether it would be possible to eliminate the sanctuaries held by insurgents in Iraq before the election, Rumsfeld replied, "Well, time will tell. We'll all know soon enough."

It was far from the first time that Rumsfeld's comments have become a controversial center of attention. In assessing support for U.S. actions in Iraq, for instance, he was the subject of international commentary after calling France and Germany part of "old Europe."

He angered Palestinians and other Arabs in the Middle East when he referred to the "so-called occupied territories" Israel gained after war.

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