- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 21, 2004

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell warned yesterday that terrorists in Iraq are stepping up their insurgency in hopes voters will remove President Bush from office but that Americans are “wise enough” not to give in to the provocation.

Mr. Powell also said the United States would accept the results of the Iraqi elections, which are scheduled for January, if they are “free, fair and open,” although he cautioned Iraqis against electing a “radicalized” government.

“I think what [the terrorists] are trying to do is influence the Iraqi election. They are trying to make it more difficult for the Iraqi people to have a free, fair, open election,” Mr. Powell said of the insurgents in an interview with Abu Dhabi TV.

“It happens that the United States election comes before then,” he said. “So anything they are doing, people will immediately think they might be doing it with respect to our election or outcome.”

Secretary Powell, speaking at the State Department, noted that casualties in Iraq have increased in recent months and that the situation probably will become “more difficult” as Nov. 2 draws closer.

But “the American people will not shrink from the task that is before us, and the American people are wise enough to put this into their calculation as to who they want to elect as president,” he said.

Mr. Powell’s remarks came three days after similar comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During a visit to Tajikistan on Monday, Mr. Putin said the insurgents hope to help defeat Mr. Bush and that such an outcome would give “an additional impulse in their activities.”

Asked in the television interview whether Washington would recognize the Iraqi election outcome, Mr. Powell said: “We would respect the election results if the election is held in a way that is free, fair and open, and all segments of the Iraqi population got to participate in such an election.”

But he added: “I think it’s unlikely that the Iraqi people want to have a government that is radicalized or will not protect the rights of all Iraqi people.”

Iraq’s Transitional Administrative Law, adopted before the end of the U.S.-led occupation in June, “recognizes that the Shia are the majority population of Iraq, but also protects the rights of the Kurds, of the Sunnis, of all of the other segments of Iraqi society,” the secretary said.

“I don’t think the Iraqi people want to go from one form of a totalitarian state to another form of a totalitarian state,” he said. “I think they want democracy.”

Mr. Powell also called on the United Nations to add more staff in Iraq to help prepare for the elections.

The State Department yesterday welcomed Fiji’s offer to provide about 130 troops to protect U.N. personnel and said it was in talks with Georgia, the former Soviet republic, and other countries that might be willing to help.

Last week, U.S. officials said Georgia, which has about 150 troops in Iraq, had offered another 549.

“If we don’t get enough through that means, then the coalition will have to deal with the security need of the United Nations,” Mr. Powell said. “It’s important for the United Nations to step forward and to increase the number of people they have in the country who would be working on the election.”

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been reluctant to send his people to Iraq since terrorists attacked the organization’s headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2003. The bombing killed 22 U.N. officials, including the chief envoy, Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello.

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