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9/19/03 - POWELL IN BAGHDAD - 2003-09-22

The U.S.-led coalition that liberated Iraq from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein has made remarkable progress in a very short period of time. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently visited Iraq. He said that while much hard work lies ahead, he was invigorated by what he saw there:

"I saw people hard at work rebuilding a nation, rebuilding a society. I saw people hard at work knowing the United States is going to support them in that work."

During his visit to Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, Secretary of State Powell attended a city council meeting. He said he was impressed by the high spirits of those who are building new democratic institutions:

"The city council meeting I just left talked about the kinds of things you would expect a city council meeting to talk about -- the environment, and about education, and about the role of women in city life. And so, there is a vibrancy to this effort, a vibrancy that I attribute to the winds of freedom that are now blowing through this land."

This new freedom has led to the appointment of an interim Iraqi cabinet, steps toward the creation of an independent judiciary, and improvements in Iraq's economy, security, and infrastructure. All this is leading to the main goal -- turning over the reins of government to free Iraqis. As Mr. Powell said, the U.S. and its coalition partners are committed to that goal, but achieving it will take time and patience:

"The last thing we want to do is set up the Iraqis to fail. They need time to bring their ministries up to speed, to man them, to start functioning. They need time to write a constitution. They need time after that constitution is written and ratified to hold elections. We want to turn the government over from us to the Iraqi people, but with an Iraqi leadership that has been elected by the people; not just a group of individuals that have been appointed."

"The worst thing that could happen in Iraq," said Secretary of State Powell, "is for us to push this process too quickly, before the capacity for governance and the basis for legitimacy is there." But as President George W. Bush said, "Every day, Iraq draws closer to the free and functioning society they have been long denied."