By John Valceanu, American Forces Press ServiceFebruary 3, 2009
WASHINGTON - Senior military officials congratulated the Iraqi people for holding provincial elections yesterday, praising the Iraqi and U.S. forces that helped make the elections safe.
More than 14,400 candidates competed for 440 seats in 14 of 18 Iraqi provinces. Though five candidates were reported killed in the campaign leading up to the polls, there were no reports of deaths or major violence on the day of the elections.
Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, issued a statement in which he applauded the work of everyone involved in the effort to have a successful election.
"Congratulations to the Iraqi Government, the Iraqi Security Forces, the Iraqi people, the United Nations, the international observers, and Coalition elements for their concerted efforts in making today's provincial elections an event of which all Iraqis should be proud and an effort the world should applaud," Petraeus said.
The "elections are a cause for celebration as we salute the millions of Iraqi citizens who took to the streets to exercise their fundamental right to self-determination," said Petraeus, who commanded Multinational Force Iraq before assuming his current position.
"As we honor the courage and resolve of the Iraqi people who walked miles to a polling station and braved long lines and security concerns, I know that I can speak for all those who have been privileged to work with our Iraqi partners in the 'Land of the Two Rivers' in saying to the people of Iraq: 'Mabruk,'" Petraeus said, using the Iraqi word for congratulations.
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, current Multinational Force Iraq commander, also congratulated the Iraqis in a joint statement he issued with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.
"The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the Multi-National Force - Iraq congratulate the Iraqi people on holding provincial elections today," Odierno and Crocker said. "Voter turnout was large. Iraqi security forces successfully protected millions of Iraqis and enabled them to express their opinions freely in fourteen of Iraq's governorates."
Odierno and Crocker lauded the Iraqi government for their handling of the elections.
"We congratulate the Iraqi authorities, their security forces and the Iraqi election commission for their careful preparation and administration of these elections," Odierno and Crocker said.
The general and the ambassador also recognized the historic nature of this election. "These elections mark a significant milestone for the people of Iraq, and are a major step forward in Iraq's democratic development," they said.