WASHINGTON — Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, laying out his government’s security, economic, and political aspirations Thursday to a joint meeting of Congress, said elections for a transitional national assembly will be held in January, as scheduled.
“Elections will occur in Iraq on time in January,” Allawi promised.
He mentioned the doubts many have expressed about Iraq’s achievements over the months and said, “We will prove them wrong again.”
He said the insurgents and terrorists “will do all they can” to disrupt the elections.
“There will be no greater blow” to the government’s enemies than when the elections take place, he said.
He acknowledged the balloting won’t be perfect, pointing to early elections in other nations, but promised: “They will take place and they will be free and fair” and they will be “a giant step” in Iraq’s “evolution.”
Allawi talked about progress in rebuilding the country and repeatedly took note of the contribution of Americans, the other members of the coalition and the United Nations.
“We are succeeding in Iraq…. Thank you, America,” he said.
“We know Americans have made enormous sacrifices…. We promise you your sacrifices are not in vain.”
Allawi also expressed gratitude for the recent NATO decision to help train the Iraqi military.
To energetic applause, Allawi said: “We are fighting for freedom and democracy, ours and yours.
“Every day we grow in strength and determination to defeat the terrorists and their barbarism.”
He said the overwhelming majority of Iraqis are pleased that the Saddam Hussein regime was toppled, pointing to Saddam’s killings and his gassing of Kurdish communities.
“Today we are better off, you are better off, the world is better off without Saddam Hussein,” Allawi said. (Speech transcript)
Allawi is to meet with President Bush. The two leaders plan to make statements and field questions from reporters in the White House Rose Garden at 12:05 p.m
AND JUST TO FOLLOW UP ON KERRY’S REMARKS REGARDING ALLAWI’S SPEECH…
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Thursday that Iraq’s Ayad Allawi was sent before Congress to put the “best face” on Bush administration policy.
Shortly after Allawi, the interim government’s prime minister, gave a rosy portrayal of progress toward peace in Iraq, Kerry said the assessment contradicted reality on the ground.
“The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story,” Kerry said.
Allawi told a joint meeting of Congress that democratic elections will take place in Iraq in January as scheduled, but Kerry said that was unrealistic.
“The United States and the Iraqis have retreated from whole areas of Iraq,” Kerry told reporters outside a Columbus firehouse. “There are no-go zones in Iraq today. You can’t hold an election in a no-go zone.”
Kerry’s remarks come one day after he told The Associated Press that President Bush’s statement that a “handful” of people are willing to kill to stop progress in Iraq was a blunder that showed he was avoiding reality.
“George Bush let Osama bin Laden escape at Tora Bora,” Kerry said in a brief interview Wednesday. “George Bush retreated from Fallujah and other communities in Iraq which are now overrun with terrorists and threaten our troops. And George Bush said on the record we can’t win the war on terror.