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Reps. Saxton and LoBiondo in Iraq

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Reps. Saxton and LoBiondo in Iraq
January 12, 2005

Meet with Prime Minister to talk Elections and Progress; Visit U.S. Troops

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - Congressmen Jim Saxton (NJ-3) and Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-2) left Iraq today after visiting with interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and members of the U.S. military. With only days until Iraq's first free election in a generation, the meetings took on special significance. Reps. Saxton and LoBiondo were previously in Afghanistan where they met with newly-elected president Hamid Karzai, and special forces troops serving there.

"The Prime Minister is leading a great effort to establish a democracy," said Saxton. "He told us he plans to expand the Iraqi army to stabilize the country. Iraqis will be training Iraqis and have a stake in securing their own country. The Prime Minister also plans to reach out to the Sunni minority and get them involved with the elections. He faces terrorists, multiple political and religious factions and other challenges in order to take the big step of elections Jan. 30. The masses are yearning to be free, but a small minority are trying to use violence and intimidation to subvert the will of the Iraqi people. American troops are there to aid Prime Minister Allawi in his efforts to hold elections for a new and free government."

"Prime Minister Allawi acknowledged the long path ahead of Iraq as it marches toward a free and functioning democracy, but that his people yearn for an end to the violence," said Rep. LoBiondo. "The Prime Minister articulated the challenges his nation faced, including the need to train Iraqi law enforcement and military officers to help provide much needed stability for their country. The Prime Minister and the United States both understand that this law enforcement and military presence is best accomplished with Iraqi police and soldiers. We also discussed the importance of the upcoming elections with Prime Minister Allawi, and he recognized the need to involve the Sunnis and encourage their active participation for this new interim government to work."

Saxton is leading a congressional delegation of the Armed Services Committee that also includes Reps. LoBiondo, Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.).

"I'm glad we were able to sit down and eat a meal with troops from New Jersey who are helping to rebuild a nation and create a democracy," said Saxton. "They seem very determined to do their job."

"The United States military and the interim Iraqi government have been working hard to improve life for everyday Iraqis," Rep. LoBiondo said. "I was pleased to learn about several tangible results, including vast infrastructure improvements necessary to provide people in Iraq with electricity, water and sewer service, and regular trash removal. These positive improvements have the potential to calm violent areas and force the hardcore insurgents to move on."

Saxton and LoBiondo are both members of the House Armed Services Committee, and Saxton is the fourth-highest ranking member of the 60-member Committee. He is also the Chairman of the House Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee.

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