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American Forces Press Service

Rice Confident Iraqis Will Form New Government

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2006 Iraqi politicians need to move forward, choose senior parliamentary leaders, and form a permanent government, America's top diplomat said in Baghdad today.

"The Iraqi people are rightly demanding that they have a government after they braved the threats of terrorists to go to the polls and vote," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw accompanied Rice, who arrived in Iraq yesterday.

The United States, Britain "and others who have forces on the ground and have sacrificed here have a deep desire and, I think, a right to expect that this process will keep moving forward," Rice said at today's news conference.

Iraq's political leaders will sort out their differences and form a new, permanent government soon, Rice told reporters yesterday in Baghdad. "There is a lot of desire in this country to make (democracy) work. You know, the people want to make it work," Rice said yesterday after meeting with Iraqi leaders.

Iraqi officials have been working for weeks to establish a new government based on the results of the Dec. 15, 2005, nationwide elections.

Rice also said yesterday that she was impressed with recent cartoons appearing in Iraqi newspapers that have criticized politicians' slowness in forming a new government. "You would not have been doing cartoons about whatever Saddam Hussein was doing and live to tell about it," Rice said. "And here, you have in their free press people apparently just lampooning their government for not getting formed."

That expression of free speech demonstrates the Iraqi people's "desire to have this democratic process work, and it shows the kind of political maturity that's pretty extraordinary," Rice said yesterday in Baghdad.

Rice praised those Iraqis who are working hard to establish their new government, while scorning others "who set off roadside bombs and ... blow up innocent kids."

Rice said yesterday that the political fate of interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, who's trying to keep his job in the new government, is an Iraqi affair. The key goal, Rice said, is forming a government of national unity in Iraq that will derail those trying to fan sectarian violence.

"I don't know who the (new) prime minister is going to be, and it's not our role to try and determine who the prime minister is going to be," Rice said yesterday. The Iraqis must "get a prime minister who can actually form the government," she said.

Rice reiterated her belief that Iraqis soon would get their political house in order. "I really do believe that when you've got this much desire to make it work, this much resilience at overcoming sectarian differences, they're going to make it work," Rice said during yesterday's news conference in Baghdad.

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