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06 January 2005

Strong U.S. Military Presence Enhances Iraq Election Security

Number of insurgent attacks in Baghdad has declined

Washington -- More than 35,000 U.S. troops will be out in force to enhance security in Baghdad before and during the January 30 Iraqi national elections, a senior U.S. general says.

"While insurgent activity in Baghdad will likely spike as the Iraqi people approach their elections and the insurgents become more desperate, we will continue to focus on providing an environment in which Iraqis can conduct their elections without insurgent interference," Major General Peter W. Chiarelli said at a news conference from Baghdad January 5.

Chiarelli, commanding officer of the Army's 1st Cavalry Division, says that polling done by Iraqis in Baghdad indicate at least 80 percent of voters in the capital want to elect a new National Assembly on January 30.  Insurgents, waging an ongoing campaign of attacks in Baghdad and other cities across the country, have been attempting to sabotage the national election.

Chiarelli added that his Task Force Baghdad has been effective in significantly reducing the number of street attacks in the capital city.  "For every one that you've seen go off [bombings], I've found another one or broke up a cell that is placing another one," he said.  "The total number of attacks in Baghdad has gone down."

However, Chiarelli said he could not guarantee that there will not be any violence in Baghdad during the elections; "in fact, we should expect there will be,"  he said.

Iraqis, for their part, he said, are providing support to coalition and Iraqi security efforts.  He said Iraqis have been calling a tip line and paying attention to billboards that seek help in reporting weapons-cache locations or suspicious activities.

He added that despite the attacks in recent months, Iraqis continue to want to join the National Guard and police force.

"We're having no problems recruiting and keeping our units filled up, and that is a good thing, and it is truly amazing.  They want to get out there," Chiarelli said.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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