War coalition supporters, opponents hail landmark Iraq poll




 
--
Boots
 
December 16th, 2005  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: War coalition supporters, opponents hail landmark Iraq poll


PARIS, Dec 15 (AFP) - Supporters and opponents of the US-led coalition in
Iraq hailed Thursday's parliamentary elections, eyeing light at the end of
the tunnel in the transition from the war which toppled Saddam Hussein.

In Washington the White House hailed the elections as an "historic day,"
underlining what it described as a high turnout and relatively little
violence in the war-wracked country.

"This is a historic day for the Iraqi people, the Middle East and the world,
a historic day for the advance of freedom," said spokesman Scott McClellan.
"We are encouraged by what appears to be a large turnout."

Iraqi voters were choosing the country's first full-term parliament since
the fall of Saddam, amid a deadly insurgency that has sent the US death toll
to more than 2,140 soldiers.

On the eve of the poll to choose a four-year government, US President George
W. Bush had defended his decision to invade Iraq, taking responsibility for
launching the March 2003 war based on intelligence that "turned out to be
wrong" about Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

"This is a great day for Iraq," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said as
he arrived for a European summit in Brussels.

"It is the first time that Iraqis have been able to go to polls freely to
elect a new parliament... I believe that today will be seen as a historic
day when Iraqis can look forward to a better future."

Prime Minister Tony Blair added: "It shows very clearly that, given the
choice, the Iraqi people want the same as the rest of us, which is the
chance to live under a democratic form of government."

Britain was the United States' strongest ally in the 2003 invasion.

"We ought to be just grateful that today is going so well and will bring us
that much nearer to the day that the job gets done and we can come home,"
British General Nick Houghton told BBC radio from Iraq.

The secretary general of the NATO military alliance, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer,
said the high turnout and widespread participation of parties marked an
important step forward, adding: "I hope this election will mark a turning
point for Iraq and lay the foundation for a country that is increasingly
unifed and at peace."

Meanwhile, Italy's defence ministry announced it would withdraw an
additional 300 soldiers from Iraq in January as part of its gradual military
pullout from the coalition.

"People who vote freely and the end of the cruel dictatorship of Saddam
Hussein are solid facts unimaginable just three years ago. The rest is
nothing more than vain controversy," said Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi.

Lithuania's parliament on Thursday voted against a resolution calling for
the immediate withdrawal of 100 of the country's troops deployed in Iraq as
part of a Polish and Danish battalion.

The elections were also welcomed in Russia, one of the countries fiercely
opposed to the US-led invasion.

"The elections open a new page in the history of modern Iraq.... We are
convinced that only on the basis of broad dialogue with the participation of
all political and ethno-confessional groups and by renouncing force can a
long-term political resolution be achieved in Iraq," foreign ministry
spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a written statement.

The elections were also welcomed in neighbouring Turkey, which expressed
concerns about allegations of irregularities in electoral lists and voting,
and claims voters were moved from one province to another.

"The elections will constitute an important stage in the political process
in Iraq. We hope they will yield positive results for the Iraqi people," the
foreign ministry said in a statement.

Ankara fears vote manipulation by Iraqi Kurds to gain exclusive control of
the north, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which has a sizeable
population of Turkmens, an ethnic community of Turkic descent.