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U.S. Defense Chief Says Iraqi Voting Might Be Limited

U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld (file photo) 24 September 2004 -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rusmfeld has said Iraq's scheduled January elections might not take place in areas of that country where violence remains rampant.

Rumsfeld told a U.S. Senate committee yesterday that the elections might only extend to 75 to 80 percent of Iraq due to heavy violence in the rest of the country. But he said such an election, while imperfect, would still be better than nothing.

He spoke as U.S. President George W. Bush met in Washington with Ayad Allawi, Iraq's interim prime minister.

At a news conference later on Thursday, both Bush and Allawi reiterated that Iraq will go ahead with national elections in January, as scheduled.

Bush also suggested that violence in Iraq is likely to increase as the polls approach: "Remnants of the old regime and terrorist groups want to prevent Iraq's elections and demoralize Iraq's allies. Because of that, Prime Minister Allawi and I believe terrorist violence may well escalate as the January elections draw near. The terrorists know that events in Iraq are reaching a decisive moment."

Bush also said the U.S. military has not asked him for more troops for Iraq, but that he would consider such a request if it came.

Allawi said Iraq doesn't need more U.S. troops, but rather training for its own forces. The Iraqi leader is due to meet with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon (1445 Prague time) later today.