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Rice Says Iraqi Voters Took "Another Really Important Step Forward"


October 17, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the Iraqi people have taken "another really important step forward" toward the goal of a stable and democratic Iraq through their participation in a constitutional referendum October 15.

"As a matter of political process for the Iraqi people, this is another really important step forward. They just keep moving inexorably toward permanent elections in December, when they'll have a permanent government," Rice said in a briefing for reporters in London October 16.

Rice said that early indications showed that about 63 or 64 percent of Iraqi voters went to the polls to cast ballots, with the most significant rise taking place among Iraqi Sunnis, many of whom boycotted the elections for a transitional government in January.

The secretary said that the general assessment is that the referendum "probably passed," giving the political process a broader base, which over time will sap strength from the insurgency.

Rice said the next critical step is the election of a permanent government December 15.

The secretary said that the United States will maintain enough military strength in Iraq to assure that "a foundation for a stable and democratic Iraq" is laid.

She said the U.S. goal is "to have a different kind of Middle East so that we do not have a terrorist base in the Middle East of the kind that's been producing extremists."

Regarding the Iranian nuclear issue, Rice said diplomacy is making progress.

"I think that the Iranians are in a position where they are going to have to move toward an acceptable solution on their nuclear program in order to hold any hope of maintaining integration into the international system. And as I've said time and time again, Iran is not North Korea in terms of its ability to remain isolated," Rice said.

She said the international community will make assessments on the next steps to be taken with regard to Iran on November 24.



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