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6/20/04 - PARTNERS FOR FREEDOM IN IRAQ - 2004-06-21

With only days to go until Iraqi authorities assume sovereignty in their country, nearly sixty percent of the government has already been transferred to Iraqi control. The Coalition Provisional Authority reports that fifteen of Iraq's twenty-six ministries are now under Iraqi leadership. All of Iraq’s provincial governments are operating independently, and about ninety percent of Iraq's municipalities have functioning city or town councils.

The Iraqi transition, says President George W. Bush, is “sending a message across the region from Damascus to Tehran. The Iraqi people,” he said, “are achieving great things and serving and sacrificing for their own future.”

Clearly, the immediate future will not be easy. The deputy director of the U.S.-led coalition’s operations, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, says numerous groups want to see democracy fail in Iraq:

“They want to see this country brought back to, perhaps, an authoritarian regime as you had under Saddam or perhaps an extremist regime that we’ve seen in so many places like Afghanistan [under the Taleban]. If you start off with that as your principle, the question is, ‘Who is going to defend the people of Iraq, the children of Iraq, the families of Iraq, from those threats?’”

General Kimmitt says the coalition will work side-by-side with the Iraqi government as long as it takes to get the job done -- and no longer:

“We certainly expect that as Iraqi security forces get stronger and stronger, the need for coalition presence, multinational presence, will get smaller and smaller. We certainly understand that there will be a day when the Iraqi security forces are able to say, ‘We are capable. We are credible. We are able to provide for the internal security and the external security of our country.’ And on that day, there will no longer be a need for coalition forces.”

It is the partnership of coalition forces and Iraqi security forces that will see the Iraqi people through this difficult period. “The killers will fail,” says President Bush, “and the Iraqi people will live in freedom.”