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BAGHDAD, IRAQ --- A bipartisan delegation of U.S. Congresspersons awaited hopefully the formation of Iraq's first freely elected government today in Baghdad, Iraq. The delegation, led by House Armed Services Committee Terrorism Subcommittee Chairman Jim Saxton (R) of New Jersey, included Representative Steve Israel (D) of New York, Representative Thelma Drake (R) of Virginia and Representative Steve Lynch (D) of Massachusetts.
Last minute negotiations among members of the Iraqi Council of Representatives have produced an agreement for a slate of proposed leaders to be ratified later today by the entire Council of Representatives, the Iraqi Parliament. The proposed slate is led by President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister-Select Jawad al-Maliki.
The members of the U.S. Congressional delegation said it appears that the proposed slate of leaders from the President and Prime Minister on down are widely representative of the Iraqi population and seems to have broad support.
“We have been invited to attend the ceremony later today,” the delegation leader, Saxton, said. “We will accompany the U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. We hope for a successful election and organization ceremony today and the best for the Iraqi people in advancing their new government in the months and years ahead,” the delegation concluded.
Earlier this morning, the delegation met with President Talabani, who thanked the United States for its help in liberating Iraq and its help in forming a government. President Talabani pointed out how Iraqis now had freedom of expression, free elections and multiple free press, radio and television outlets. He further said that the Iraqi economy had greatly improved, with pay for police for example, increasing from $2 a month under Saddam to more than $300 a month today. None of this would have been possible without the help of the United States, President Talabani told the delegation, and he and the Iraqi people are deeply appreciative.