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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Prime Minister pays tribute to UK Hercules troops

10 Downing Street

I would like to say a few words about the elections in Iraq and also about the tragic loss of British lives in the Hercules C130 plane.

The war in Iraq divided people deeply here and round the world. But I know that whatever view people took of how this has come about we will all embrace today the birth of Iraq's new democracy.

The force of war may have removed Saddam and created the circumstances in which Iraqis could vote, but it was the force of freedom that was felt throughout Iraq today.

Though we know it is only a beginning and though many difficulties lie ahead, it was moving and humbling for those of us lucky to live in countries where we take democracy for granted, to see the simple determination and clear-sighted courage of millions of Iraqis exercising the right to vote for the first time in their lives.

A democratic Iraq is not just a giant step forward for Iraq itself; it is a blow right at the heart of the global terrorism that seeks destruction not just in Iraq but in Britain and every major country in the world.

Now we will have to sit down with the new Iraqi Government once formed, and work out a way forward, to help Iraq's democracy grow, to build the capability of the Iraqi forces to handle their own security and to make sure the large sums set aside for reconstruction can be spent to improve the lives of the people of Iraq. There is still a great deal to do.

I would like to pay tribute to the UN staff and Electoral Commission of Iraq for their steadfastness in organising the election.

I would also like to express my admiration for the work the Iraqi and the multi-national forces have done. Without them there could have been no election. In particular I want our armed forces to know the huge debt of gratitude they are owed. This is the true face of the British army: brave, committed, professional the world over, doing an extraordinary job for their country.

Yet again today we see the sacrifice they make. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the soldiers lost. They can be so proud of what their loved ones accomplished. This country and the world will never forget them.

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