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3/6/03 - IRAQI OPPOSITION MEETING - 2003-03-07

For years, Saddam Hussein has brutally oppressed the Iraqi people. And by refusing to eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, his regime has become a danger to the region and the world. The United States and its allies are committed to removing this danger. They are also committed to the establishment of a free and peaceful Iraq. It is up to the Iraqi people to determine the precise form their new government takes. But as President George W. Bush said, the U.S. “will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.”

In pursuit of these goals, the Iraqi opposition advisory committee recently met in Salahudeen [sah-lah-huh-DEEN], a city in northern Iraq beyond the control of the Saddam Hussein regime. The fifty-four advisory committee members included Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Iraqi Kurds, among others. The meeting provided a welcome opportunity for these courageous Iraqis to continue planning for a future democratic Iraq that draws on the strengths and experiences of the Iraqi community both inside and outside Iraq.

The U.S. delegation at the meeting was headed by Zalmay Khalilzad, presidential special envoy for Free Iraqis. He reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to a democratic, representative, broad-based Iraqi government that respects the rule of law and human rights. Other principles are that Iraq’s territorial integrity must be maintained, and that Iraq must be at peace with its neighbors, reject weapons of mass destruction, fight terrorism, and fulfill its international obligations.

The U.S. will continue to work with the Iraqi opposition advisory committee and other free Iraqis -- as well as with those Iraqis still suffering in silent captivity. Iraq’s people are ready to begin the challenging task of establishing a democracy. And many freedom-loving nations throughout the world look forward with them to the day of their liberation.

As President Bush said, “Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it, and the security of all nations requires it.”