Bush Hails Iraqi Vote as 'Resounding Success'
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush called Sunday's landmark Iraqi election a "resounding success" and said Iraqis have rejected the anti-democratic ideology of terrorists.
"By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists. They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and assassins," he said in televised comments from the White House after the polls closed.
While acknowledging "terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage their war against democracy," Bush promised that the United States will continue to "support the Iraqi people in their fight against them."
Although participation estimates varied, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iraqis defied expectations to turn out in large numbers. At least 35 people were killed in militant attacks throughout the day.
The fact that Iraq's first multi-party election in half a century occurred despite an unrelenting wave of deadly attacks by insurgents is an important boost to Bush's vision of a democratic Middle East.
It was seen at the White House as validation of Bush's strategy in Iraq and as new impetus to pursue his broader goals in the region.
"The Iraqi people themselves made this election a resounding success," said Bush, who repeatedly rejected calls to delay the polls because of the violence that has killed more than 1,400 U.S. troops and thousands more Iraqis since the U.S.-led invasion 22 months ago.
Earlier, Rice, who took office last week, said in a series of television interviews that while the elections reflected "the emergence of an Iraqi voice for freedom," there would be many difficult days ahead.
She expressed confidence that minority Sunnis, a key to Iraq's future stability, would be included in the post-election political process.
And she vowed that America would help "brave" Iraqi voters to "finish the job" of bringing democracy to their country.
"Every indication is that the election is going better than could have been expected ... What we're seeing here is the emergence of an Iraqi voice for freedom," she said on ABC's "This Week.