President Talabani gave a great speech which should be read in full:
PRESIDENT TALABANI: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind remarks. It is honor for me to stand here today as a representative of free Iraq. It is an honor to present the world’s youngest democracy.
In the name of Iraqi people, I say to you, Mr. President, and to the glorious American people, thank you, thank you. Thank you, because you liberated us from the worst kind of dictatorship. Our people suffered too much from this worst kind of dictatorship. The — (inaudible)
— was hundred thousand of Iraqi innocent children and women, young and old men. Thank you, and thanks to the United States, there are now 15 million Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq liberated by your courageous leadership and decision to liberate us, Mr. President.
We agree with Mr. President Bush that democracy is the solution to the problems of the Middle East. Mr. President, you are a visionary, great statesman. We salute you. We are grateful to you. We will never forget what you have done for our people.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENT TALABANI: We have had a good discussion with Mr. President. We are partners. We are proud to say openly and to repeat it that we are partners of the United States of America in fighting against tyranny, terrorism, and for democracy. It is something we are not shy to say and will repeat it everywhere, here and in Iraq, and the United Nations and everywhere.
Iraq is America’s ally in the war against terrorism. Our soldiers are now fighting side-by-side with your brave soldiers, now and every day. We have captured many senior elements of al Qaeda. We killed many of them, and we have also many of them in our prisons.
With your support, we could create a society enjoying democracy for the first time, obviously. Now Iraq is a free country. We have all kinds of democracy, all kinds of freedom of expression of parties, groups, civil society, organizations — that we can say that our democracy is unique in the Middle East.
Our strategy is solvent. We build democracy and defend democracy. We talk about how we could improve our tactics. There is progress in security in our country. The number of the — (inaudible) — reduced; the traces which were under the full control of the terrorists are now liberated, and they’re now registering their names for the new election.
In the areas which were known that there was any of al Qaeda now became the area of Iraq. And two important signals appeared in that area — the people started to — (inaudible) — and to fight terrorists. Now we have Iraqi Arab tribes, Sunni tribes fighting terrorism and al Qaeda. We have also people who are in — (inaudible) — who are cooperating with Iraqi forces, and with American forces against terrorism. It is a good signal that our people start to understand that terrorism is the enemy of Iraqi people before becoming enemy of Americans. They are killing our civilians, or innocent children. They are destroying our mosques — church, everywhere, regardless of what may happen to the people.
And we are now progressing gradually. Last year, for example — (inaudible) — a year ago, Najaf was a battlefield. Najaf is a holy city of Shiites, the Vatican of the Shiites. Now Najaf is being rebuilt, is free, and ruled by the elected committee, elected government.
There are still important security challenges we are neglecting. But we are fighting al Qaeda. Now our fight in Tall Afar proved that the enemy is going to be weakened and low morale. The fighting in Tall Afar was easy to defeat the terrorists and to liberate the town.
The so-called jihadists want to impose oppression and dictatorship and worst kind of society on our people. For that they are not only — so they are not only the enemy of Iraq, but they are the enemy of humanity, the enemy of real Islam, and the enemy of all Middle East peoples. Together with our American friends and partners, we will defeat them.
Today, American and international presence in Iraq is vital. The American and international presence in Iraq is vital for democracy in Iraq and in the Middle East, and also for prevent foreign interference in the internal affairs of Iraq.
We will set no timetable for withdrawal, Mr. President. A timetable will help the terrorists, will encourage them that they could defeat a superpower of the world and the Iraqi people. We hope that by the end of 2006, our security forces are up to the level of taking responsibility from many American troops with complete agreement with Americans. We don’t want to do anything without the agreement with the Americans because we don’t want to give any signal to the terrorists that our will to defeat them is weakened, or they can defeat us.
We are proud that one day will come — as soon as possible, of course, we hope — that American troops can proudly return home, and we tell them, thank you, dear friends, and you are faithful to friendship. Of course, we are sorry for the sacrifices of American people in Iraq, but I think a great people like America has a mission in the history — they have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of their sons in the war — first world war, second world war, and in liberating people in Afghanistan, Kurdistan. And the great leader, Mr. George W. Bush is continuing the same mission of the American people. We are grateful. We are grateful for American generosity, and we honor — we honor — sacrifices of America in Iraq — and everywhere, not only in Iraq.
We also need our neighbors, at least some of them, to stop attacking Iraqi democracy. We want them to join us in fighting against terrorism. We want our Arab brothers — (inaudible) — media, at least the official media, to support terrorism. We want them to stand with us against terrorism, because terrorism is the enemy of all Arab and Muslim countries in the world.
But we will proceed, and we will remember those who helped us in our struggle to establish a democracy in Iraq. And you are first those people who supported us for this noble mission.
There is, in Iraq, political progress. We are talking taking the gun out of Iraqi politics, for the first time. Iraqis will have — speak in peaceful dialogue, not with arms. The majority of Iraqis are committed to political process. Iraq is a diverse country. They are mostly settling — (inaudible) — peacefully.
We have agreed a draft constitution. Of course, it is not perfect document, but I think it is one of the best constitutions in the Middle East. Of course, we didn’t solve all problems, we have some problems. We are still suffering from many problems. But we are achieving progress on all fields — economic, trade, education, political life. And we hope that we will remain having the support of the United States, and yourself, Mr. President, and other friends in Arab world and in Europe.
It is true we are a young democracy, but our draft constitution has a bill of rights, ensures the equality of all Iraqis — regardless of their gender, creed, religion, or ethnicity. It enshrines the separation of powers, and involves many checks and balances on the exercise of power. It is the best constitution in the entire region, as we claim. We hope it will be correct.
We are reaching out to some other Iraqi citizens who were not able to participate in the election — I mean our Arab Sunni brothers. We tried to be involved with them in the process. When the result of the election was announced, the two main lists of alliance — the Kurdistan Alliance and the United Front of Iraq Shiite Alliance — we got 238 votes, and the Assembly was 275. But, nevertheless, we tried to bring our Sunni Arabs to the government, to participate. We elected a vice president, an Arab Sunni; two deputy prime ministers; the Speaker of the House is a Sunni; and six ministers, among them, two main posts, the Minister of Defense and Minister of Industry.
It means that we are anxious to have all Iraqis united, and to solve all our problems through dialogue. We are calling all Iraqis to come to participate in the democratic process and to say what they want, and they are free to decide the government — decide the President of Iraq, the Prime Minister, the ministers, and they are able to say what they want through democratic process, they can say their — and demands.
This, of course, constitution is not perfect, but it can be amended in the future, if the Iraqi people want this. But now, compared with others, we are proud to have such a kind of constitution. Some of our brothers, Sunni Arabs, are under the threat of terrorism. We will try our best to liberate them from terrorism and from the violence.
To those in America, in other countries, still ask of war of liberation in Iraq, if it was right — the right decision. I say, please, please, come to Iraq, to visit the mass graves, to see what happened to the Iraqi people, and to see what now is going on in Iraq. To those who talk of stability, I say, Saddam imposed the stability of the mass graves. To the terrorists, I say, you will never win; freedom will win in Iraq.
Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)