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Iraq Transition

World leaders praise voter courage

Annan: Start of a transition process


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CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports on voter enthusiasm.

An Iraqi in Baquba "defeating the terrorists" by voting.

Iraqis brave long lines and threats to vote.
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(CNN) -- Leaders around the globe have praised the courage of ordinary Iraqis in turning out to vote in the face of threats of violence and retribution.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other world political figures hailed the Iraq elections as the beginning of a transition process that will lead to Iraqis controlling their own destiny.

U.S. President George W. Bush hailed the elections as a "resounding success," despite violence that claimed about 25 lives and left many more wounded.

He praised Iraqis for taking "rightful control of their country's destiny".

Inside Iraq, more than 14.2 million Iraqis were registered to vote, with early indications pointing to a higher-than-expected turnout. Outside the country, almost two-thirds of the 280,000 registered Iraqi expatriates around the world so far have turned out to vote.

Annan noted that Sunday's election was "not the end of the process".

He said it was the beginning of political transition that eventually should see the day when "Iraqis run their own affairs and and take charge of their own destinies."

"It is important that they participate in the process," he said.

There was praise for Iraqi voters too from the leaders of Britain, Italy and Australia, three nations that have sent troops to Iraq despite misgivings among their own citizens.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said democracy in Iraq was "not just good for Iraq itself."

"It is also a blow right to the heart of the global terrorism that threatens destruction not just in Iraq, but in Britain and virtually every major country around the world."

Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi said: "I see today's success as also a success for us, and it's something we can be highly proud of."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard told reporters there was no doubt that terrorists had adopted Iraq as a battleground.

"If a democracy takes root in Iraq then that is a setback for terrorism," he said.

Speaking in London, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the government was "delighted that so many Iraqis have turned out to vote. This is an enormous day in the history of modern Iraq."

Jean-Francois Cope, spokesman for the French government, said: "This is a great victory, if this process succeeds, first and foremost for the Iraqis who together felt sufficiently courageous despite the hardships, despite the violence to go and vote."

France, Germany and Russia are among European nations which opposed the U.S.-led military action in Iraq.

"I want to congratulate the Iraqi people who have shown courage and determination in voting today," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said.

"Despite the many difficulties that lie ahead, the elections mark progress towards a transition to a democratic, free and peaceful Iraq."

The Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, based in London, carried an editorial by Adel Drawish calling the elections "An unprecedented and historic event ... An Iraqi scene unlike any other in the region ... The Iraqi elections will serve as a lesson for neighboring countries to assume power through voting and not overthrowing."

Polls have now closed in Iraq and ballot counting has begun, with the count expected to take up to 10 days.

Outside the country, the United Nations said Sunday that about two-thirds of the 280,000 Iraqi expatriates registered to vote had cast ballots in the first two days of their three-day voting period.

Expatriate voting ends Sunday, when polls in Los Angeles close at 5 p.m. (8 p.m. ET).

About 66 percent of Iraqi expatriates registered to vote -- 186,619 -- cast ballots in the first two days of their three-day voting period, the United Nations' Iraq Out-of-Country voting program said Sunday.

The following are turnout reports for the first two days of voting. It does not include Sunday's numbers.

World: 186,619; or 65.9 percent; Australia: 7,710; or 65.3 percent of the registered voters there; Britain: 15,851; or 51.2 percent; Canada: 7,491; or 68.4 percent; Denmark: 8,654; or 66.7 percent; France: 616; 59.2 percent; Germany: 16,126; or 61 percent; Iran: 41,033; or 67.4 percent; Jordan: 16,920; or 72.9 percent; Netherlands: 10,039; or 68.2 percent; Sweden: 22,256; or 71.7 percent; Syria: 11,830; or 71.3 percent; Turkey: 2,622; or 62.6 percent; UAE: 9,051; or 71.9 percent; USA: 16,420; or 63.3 percent.

Following are quotes from world leaders and other prominent figures responding to Sunday's historic Iraqi elections.

--Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer":

"This is one of the most joyful days ever in the history of this nation. This is a historic day. This is a paradigm shift that is transforming this country from the most ruthless, brutal, despotic regime, known dictatorship, into a full-fledged democracy.

"Today Iraqi people have served a blow and slap on the face of Zarqawi and Saddam loyalists and bin Laden."

"The Iraqi people, despite the fact that these threats and blood on the streets, they bought their freedom and they paid heavily in treasure and in blood."

"Millions of Iraqis are taking the responsibility now of fighting terrorism and the undemocratic, the dark forces."

-- U.S. President George W. Bush: "Today the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East. In great numbers and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy ... And they have demonstrated the kind of courage that is always the foundation of self-government."

"The Iraqi people themselves made this election a resounding success."

"The American military and our diplomats, working with our coalition partners, have been skilled and relentless. And their sacrifices have helped to bring Iraqis to this day."

-- British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "Whatever views people have of how we came to this point, we all of us will want to embrace the birth of Iraq's new democracy. It may have been the force of arms that removed Saddam and created circumstances in which Iraqis could vote, but it was the force of freedom that was felt throughout Iraq today.

"We know it's only a beginning; we know there are many difficulties that lie ahead."

"Democracy in Iraq is not just good for Iraq itself. It is also a blow right to the heart of the global terrorism that threatens destruction not just in Iraq, but in Britain and virtually every major country around the world."

-- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan: "This election is not the end of the process, it's the beginning of transition, of political transition, which eventually should see the day when Iraqis run their own affairs and and take charge of their own destinies, and it is important that they participate in the process."

-- Adnan Pachachi, former head of the Iraqi Governing Council and top Sunni figure, on "Late Edition": "The results are much better than I had expected. And I think this is an important first step towards establishing a democratic system in Iraq."

"Some lives have been lost, unfortunately, during this day, but I think the level of violence has been less than we had feared."

Pachachi said inital reports suggest turn-out in key Sunni Arab areas, including Mosul and Falluja, was higher than expected. "And we hope that the new assembly will invite those parties that have not taken part in the election in joining us in writing the constitution. This will pave the way for a far more inclusive election... at the end of this year."

-- Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi Governing Council: "The elections went well because the Iraqi people have an overwhelming desire to vote. The unions of people are stronger than the handful of terrorists. And the terrorists threw everything they had into this fray, and they lost."

"And we are grateful to the American young men and women who are risking their lives to give the Iraqi people this chance, this dream of democracy in Iraq now."

-- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," called Sunday "a remarkable day for the Iraqi people" and noted that the election "is a first step for the Iraqis" towards democratic reforms.

"They're demonstrating once again that the values of democracy and liberty are universal values."

"I see coalition forces sacrificing and giving their lives so that the Iraqi people could have the kind of day that they had today."

"The costs are worth it. The Iraqis are emerging -- from their own shadow of terror. And America's going to be safer for it."

-- Sen. John Kerry, former Democratic presidential candidate, on NBC's "Meet the Press":

"It is significant that there is a vote in Iraq. But no one in the United States ... should try to over-hype this election. This election is a sort of demarcation point, and what really counts now is the effort to have a legitimate political reconciliation. And it's going to take a massive diplomatic effort and a much more significant outreach to the international community than this administration has been willing to engage in."

"What the administration does in these next few days will decide the outcome of Iraq. And this is ... the last chance for the president to get it right."

Kerry said Iraq remained more of a terrorist threat than it was two years ago. "And, in fact, I believe the world is less safe today than it was two and a half years ago."

-- Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.: "I think this is a good day for democracy in Iraq and am proud of the American soldiers without whom this would not have been possible, but it's not the end of the process. We have a long and difficult road ahead of us and I think we're going to need the kind of leaders that understand the complexities in Iraq to be successful."


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