By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2006 – The makeup of Iraq’s new unity government reflects the diversity of its society, President Bush said here today.
“After months of patient negotiations, Iraqi leaders reached an agreement on a unity government,” Bush said in a speech on energy policy. “This new leadership reflects the diversity of Iraq, and it reflects the will of the Iraqi people who defied the terrorists and killers and went to the polls last December.”
The Iraqi parliament April 22 elected seven high-ranking officials, including President Jalal Talabani, who then named Jawad al Maliki as prime minister-designate. The new government has 30 days to appoint an Iraqi cabinet that represents all of the country’s citizens.
Despite disagreements, officials agree that the formation of the unity government is a crucial moment in the history of a new Iraq, Bush said.
He said he spoke to the Iraqi president, parliament speaker and the prime minister-designate April 23. “I congratulated them on their courage and encouraged them to stand strong for the Iraqi people,” he said. “I reminded them the people had voted — the people had expressed their desire for democracy and unity — and now there’s a chance for these leaders to stand up and lead.”
The new leaders now have the responsibility to help rebuild the country’s infrastructure, improve economic conditions and enhance security, he said.
The formation of a new government is an important milestone for a free Iraq, Bush said, and it’s the beginning of a new chapter in America’s relationship with the Iraqi people.
The president said it is important for Americans to know that all three Iraqi leaders said they appreciate sacrifices made by U.S. troops and taxpayers to help them realize their dream to live in a unified and free society.
Bush then stressed that a free and unified Iraq is in the best interest of the United States, as well. “A free Iraq will be a part of laying the peace for generations to come, and a free Iraq will be a major defeat for the terrorists who still want to do us harm,” he said.
Later in the day, the president met with Senate leaders at the White House. He said they received briefings from Baghdad on the unity government’s formation.
All agreed the government’s formation, he noted, “is a very important moment in the history of a new Iraq.” He also thanked U.S. troops for engaging in “heroic efforts” to help Iraq succeed.
“Our troops need to know, and those working in the field need to know there is a bipartisan desire for us to be successful in this very important theater in the war on terror,” Bush said.