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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

American Forces Press Service

White House, Coalition Say Attacks Won't Stop New Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2004 - Iraq will continue its march toward democracy in spite of today's bloody attacks, White House and coalition officials said.

Terrorists killed at least 143 Shiite Muslims and wounded almost 500 observing Ashura - the holiest day of the sect's calendar.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the attacks are proof that terrorists believe Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. "The stakes are very high in Iraq," he said. "There are foreign terrorists who are in Iraq who seek to undermine a free and peaceful future for the Iraqi people."

In a broadcast to the Iraqi people, coalition administrator Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III assured them the coalition will not abandon them. Immediately after the bombings in Baghdad and Karbala, many Shiia blamed the United States for not providing better security. "The coalition is even now providing all possible medical care for the wounded," Bremer said. "And I pledge the full capacity of the coalition to bring these murderers to justice as Iraq continues its march to democracy and sovereignty."

Bremer told Iraqis that the attacks were launched as part of "an effort to provoke sectarian violence among Muslims. We know they chose this day so that they could kill as many innocents as possible."

The ambassador said the terrorists want a civil war in Iraq to stop Iraq's progress. "We know that the terrorists fear democracy because they said so," he said. "In a recent letter, the terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi wrote that democracy was coming to Iraq, and that once Iraq was democratic there would be no pretext for attacks." Members of the Iraqi Governing Council accused al Qaeda ally Zarqawi of masterminding the attacks.

The attacks will not stop the governing council from signing the Transitional Administrative Law - the Iraq's interim constitution -- later this week. Bremer said the law is the epitome of what terrorists oppose. "The coalition stands firmly with the forces of decency, with those who protect the innocent, with those who will bring about Iraq's future of hope," Bremer said.

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