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Rice sees tough time ahead

By Sridhar Krishnaswami

WASHINGTON, JAN. 30. The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has hailed the Iraqi vote saying the elections are going "better than expected".

"Every indication is that the election in Iraq is going better than expected," she said in a television interview.

"What we're seeing here is the voice of freedom," Dr. Rice said even while conceding, "No, it's not a perfect election."

She sees the vote as a positive development that no one had foreseen three years ago when Saddam Hussein was in power in Baghdad.

Dr. Rice acknowledged that there would be many difficult days ahead and held out the confidence that the minority Sunnis would be a part of the post election political process. The Bush administration has a huge stake in any success of the elections has been going out of its way to put a positive spin on events leading up to the Sunday vote.

Mr. Bush on Saturday cautioned that the election would not end the violence in Iraq but that the vote would be the beginning of peace, stability, prosperity and justice.

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