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Iraq Holds Festive First Session Of Parliament

Baghdad, 16 March 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq's new parliament today convened in a festive atmosphere for its first session.

In a speech at the session, Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said the deputies must prevail over terror.

"All of us -- Arabs and Kurds, Turkomans and Assyrians, both Shia and Sunni Muslims and Christians -- have the task to stand firmly in fighting the terror and in prevailing over it," Talabani said. "It must be done through adopting a complex plan in politics, media, economy, peaceful negotiations, and the army. Along with the government and the Iraqi armed forces, the Iraqi people, with its conscious segments, must participate in it."

The 275-member National Assembly is charged with drafting a constitution that will go before a national referendum in October.

In Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush welcomed the opening of the parliament as "a bright moment" in Iraq's evolution toward democracy. He praised the voters who elected this first parliament.

"The people who deserve the credit in Iraq are the Iraqi citizens that defied the terrorists. Imagine what it would be like to try to go vote thinking that there could be a suicide bomber standing next to you in line or somebody would lob a shell or a mortar at you. The courage of the Iraqi citizens was just overwhelming," Bush said.

No date has been set for the parliament's second session, when it is expected to elect deputies to leadership positions.


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