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4/28/03 - BUILDING IRAQ'S FUTURE - 2003-04-28

Now that the U.S.-led coalition has ended the brutal regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the task ahead is to help the Iraqi people map out their future. An interim administration composed of coalition leaders is overseeing that process. The deputy interim administrator, British General Tim Cross, said the ultimate goal -- freedom for the Iraqi people -- makes the difficult times ahead worthwhile:

"We're off to a good start. It's a journey. And I think we need to be honest about this: this is not going to be easy. We will make mistakes. And we will get things wrong. And we will listen to the Iraqi people"

Some Iraqis are already exercising their newly won freedom by staging demonstrations demanding that the coalition get out of the country. But as coalition interim administrator, retired U.S. General Jay Garner, said, the protests will not deter the coalition:

"The ability to demonstrate and disagree and all that is the first step in a democratic process. I certainly don't think that represents anywhere near the majority. I think the majority is very solid. The majority has been very safe. The majority is still somewhat afraid. And I think as you see them get more comfortable, you'll see more favoritism toward the U.S."

Despite the protests, as deputy administrator Cross said, it is clear that the majority of the Iraqi people want a democratic future:

"The spirit of freedom burns in the heart of the Iraqi people like any other nation on earth. They will be the ones who decide their future. And they will be the ones who decide to form a democracy that they want to live in."

That process is underway. Meetings are being held throughout the country between coalition officials and exile groups, former opposition figures, and tribal and religious leaders. They will create an interim authority that will govern Iraq until elections can be held.