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EXCERPTS FROM INTERIM PRIME MINISTER ALLAWI'S SPEECH

'Every Day We Grow in Strength ... to Defeat the Terrorists'

September 24, 2004

We are succeeding in Iraq. It's a tough struggle with setbacks, but we are succeeding. I have seen some of the images that are being shown here on television. They are disturbing. They focus on the tragedies, such as the brutal and barbaric murder of two American hostages this week. My thoughts and prayers go out to their families and to all those who lost loved ones. Yet, as we mourn these losses, we must not forget either the progress we are making or what is our stake in Iraq. We are fighting for freedom and democracy -- ours and yours. Every day we strengthen the institutions that will protect our new democracy, and every day we grow in strength and determination to defeat the terrorists and their barbarism.

The second message is quite simple and one that I would like to deliver directly from my people to yours. Thank you, America....

Third, I stand here today as the prime minister of a country emerging finally from dark ages of violence, aggression, corruption and greed. Like almost every Iraqi, I have many friends who were murdered, tortured or raped by the regime of Saddam Hussein.

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My friends, today we are better off, you are better off, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. Your decision to go to war in Iraq was not an easy one, but it was the right one. There are no words that can express the debt of gratitude that future generations of Iraqis will owe to Americans. It would have been easy to have turned your back on our plight, but this is not a tradition of this great country. Not for the first time in history, you stood up with your allies for freedom and democracy.

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Ladies and gentlemen, the costs now have been high. As we have lost our loved ones in this struggle, so have you. As we have mourned, so have you. This is a bitter price of combating tyranny and terror. Our hearts go to the families -- every American who has given his or her life in the cause and every American who has been wounded to help us in our struggle. Now we are determined to honor your confidence and sacrifice by putting into practice in Iraq the values of liberty and democracy which are so dear to you, and which have triumphed over tyranny across our world.

Creating a democratic, prosperous and stable nation where differences are respected, human rights protected, and which lives in peace with itself and its neighbors is our highest priority, our sternest challenge and our greatest goal.

It is a vision, I assure you, shared by the vast majority of the Iraqi people. But there are the tiny minority who despise the very ideas of liberty, of peace, of tolerance, and who will kill anyone, destroy anything to prevent Iraq and its people from achieving this goal. Among them are those who nurse fantasies of the former regime returning to power; there are fanatics who seek to impose a perverted vision of Islam in which the face of Allah cannot be seen; and there are terrorists, including many from outside Iraq, who seek to make our country the main battleground against freedom, democracy and civilization. For the struggle in Iraq today is not about the future of Iraq only, it's about the worldwide war between those who want to live in peace and freedom, and terrorists, terrorists who strike indiscriminately at soldiers, at civilians, as they did so tragically on 9/11 in America, and as they did in Spain and Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia and my country and many others.

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We plan to build and maintain security forces across Iraq. Ordinary Iraqis are anxious to take over entirely this role and to shoulder all the security burdens, as quickly as possible. For now, of course, we need the help of our American and coalition partners, but the training of Iraqi security forces is moving forward briskly and effectively.

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As we move forward, the next major milestone will be holding of the free and fair national and local elections in January next. I know that some have speculated, even doubted, whether this date can be met. So let me be absolutely clear. Elections will occur in Iraq, on time in January, because Iraqis want elections on time.

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The Iraqi elections may not be perfect, may not be the best elections that Iraq will ever hold.

They will no doubt be an excuse for violence from those that despise liberty, as were the first elections in Sierra Leone, South Africa or Indonesia. But they will take place, and they will be free and fair. And though they won't be the end of the journey toward democracy, they will be a giant step forward in Iraq's political evolution.

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When governments negotiate with terrorists, everyone in the free world suffers. When political leaders sound the siren of defeatism in the face of terrorism, it only encourages more violence. Working together, we will defeat the killers, and we will do this by refusing to bargain about our most fundamental principles.

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