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Blair on Iraqi elections

Blair on Iraqi elections

Good evening. I'd like to say a few words about the elections in Iraq, but also about the tragic loss of British lives in the Hercules C-130 aircraft.

I know the war in Iraq deeply divided opinion here and right round the world. But I also note that 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. But it was moving and humbling for those of us lucky enough to live in a democracy and take it for granted to see the enthusiasm and the simple determination, the clear sight of courage of millions of Iraqis that came out to vote for the first time in their lives, despite the terrorism, despite the threats, despite the dangers.

However, 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.

What we now have to do is to sit down with the new Iraqi government once it's formed and work out a way forward to help Iraqis' democracy grow, to build the capability of Iraqi security forces to tackle the issues of security themselves, and to make sure that the large sums of money that the global community is providing, set aside for reconstruction, are used to make the lives of ordinary Iraqis better.

There is still a great deal to do, therefore.

I would like to pay tribute to the United Nations staff and the Electoral Commission of Iraq for their steadfastness in organizing the elections.

And I would like to express, of course, my admiration for the work of the Iraqi and the multinational forces. Without them, there would be no election.

And in particular, I want our British armed forces to know the immense debt of gratitude that they are owed. This is the true face of the British Army: brave, committed, professional the world over, doing an extraordinary job on behalf of their country.

Yet again today, we see the sacrifice that they make. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives earlier today. They can be so proud of what their loved ones accomplished. This country and the wider world will never forget them.

Thank you.

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