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12/16/03 - IRAQ IN DECEMBER - 2003-12-17

A dark and painful era in Iraq has ended. Saddam Hussein is in custody and he will be brought to justice. But that isn't the only significant event that transpired in Iraq this month.

More than twenty farmers and agribusiness representatives attended meetings in the Iraqi cities of Arbil and As Sulaymaniyah. They discussed buying and selling commodities and the importance of an Iraqi ministry of agriculture as a partner in providing research, training, and extension services.

Coalition members are also contributing to progress in Iraq. Japan’s government approved dispatching more than six-hundred non-combat troops to aid in Iraq’s reconstruction. Among other projects, Japanese troops will go to southeast Iraq to help rebuild schools and provide water, medical services, and other humanitarian assistance.

And Iraqis are demonstrating their support for the coalition. What reporters call “probably the largest demonstration in Baghdad” took place on December 10th. A large number of demonstrators rallied against dictatorship and condemned terrorism. Hussein al-Musaya, a former exile who organized the march, told a French news agency that, “It’s also a message of thanks to the coalition force for liberating Iraq.” Farook al-Shamari, another marcher, said that he does not “belong to any party but [is] against terrorism and fascism.” He said: “We lived under the aggression of fascism for forty years.” That is now all in the past.

President George W. Bush says the Iraqi people “will not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again”:

“All Iraqis who take the side of freedom have taken the winning side.... All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq.”

The goals of the U.S.-led coalition are clear. They are sovereignty for the Iraqi people, dignity for the Iraqi culture, and opportunity for a better life for all Iraqis.