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5/8/04 - IRAQ AFTER A YEAR - 2004-05-11

Conditions are different today in Iraq from what they were in May 2003 after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Daily life is improving for Iraqis. Electricity is now more widely available than before the war. The country has a stable currency and banks are operating. Iraq’s infrastructure is being rebuilt, with the oil industry producing about two-million-five-hundred-thousand barrels a day.

But, says President George W. Bush, there are “serious and continuing challenges”:

“Illegal militias and remnants of the regime, joined by foreign terrorists, are trying to take by force the power they could never gain by the ballot. These groups have found little support among the Iraqi people.”

On June 30th, an Iraqi interim government will take office. Iraqis will assume all administrative duties now performed by the coalition. Iraqis already are taking control of various ministries. On May 3rd, Dr. Abdul Amir Al-Abood took over the Agriculture Ministry. “The agriculture sector is important to Iraq,” says Dr. Al-Abood. “The Ministry of Agriculture intends to transform Iraqi agriculture into a market-based sector in which the ministry supports farmers, processors, and marketers with world-class research and development and effective regulations.”

And as Iraq regains sovereignty, President Bush says, the coalition will be there to “ensure an atmosphere of security”:

“Our coalition supports the efforts of local Iraqis to negotiate the disarmament of the radicals in Fallujah. We’ve also made it clear that militias in Najaf and elsewhere must disarm or face grave consequences. American and coalition forces are in place, and we are prepared to enforce order in Iraq."

As the transfer of sovereignty approaches, Iraqis are likely to see more violence from groups opposed to freedom. The coalition “will not be intimidated or diverted,” says President Bush. “On July 1st, and beyond, our reconstruction and military commitment will continue.”