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Marines, Iraqi Leaders Meet to Discuss Security for Upcoming Elections

Camp Ripper, Iraq
-- As Iraq's first free elections draw near, the Civil Affairs Detachment of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit hosted a Governance Conference, Jan. 12, for Iraqi leaders of western Al Anbar Province.

Senior U.S. military and local Iraqi leaders met briefly to discuss the upcoming Iraqi elections scheduled for January 30, 2005. The leaders discussed security concerns during the elections.

U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division attended the conference. According to Natonski, the United States wants the democracy in Iraq to be Iraqi, not American.

A brigadier general with the Iraqi National Guard, talking on behalf of the Iraqis present, said that they were glad to have good U.S. military leadership in Al Anbar and that the leadership understands the Iraqi people's situation.

The Iraqis further voiced that the election process will be challenging, but having a sufficient number of polling sites with adequate security will make the elections more successful.

Release #050117y



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