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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Upbeat Allawi speech raises questions
By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East analyst

In a warmly received speech to the US Congress, the Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has declared that he and his government are succeeding - despite what he called the setbacks and tragedies.

Allawi with members of US Congress
Allawi's speech will have appealed to his American hosts

And he insisted that scheduled elections will go ahead in January.

Mr Allawi's resolutely upbeat message was well judged to appeal to his American audience.

They, like him, want to believe that Iraqis are on the road to freedom - and that the terrorists, as he described them, will not be able to stop them.

The Iraqi prime minister's speech - with its blunt rejection of both tyranny and terrorism - echoed some of the big themes of the Bush presidency.

But given the grim situation in Iraq, many people around the world are likely to wonder whether Mr Allawi's apparent confidence is well founded.

Election doubts

Is it true - as he claimed - that most Iraqis support his government and only a small minority support what he called the terrorists?

And, in any case, is "terrorist" an accurate label to pin on an insurgency which now involves a wide variety of groups - some of whom clearly enjoy a degree of grass-roots support?

Mr Allawi claimed pro-government forces were beginning to regain control of Sunni towns which have been in the hands of the insurgents - but so far such success has been limited, at best.

And, crucially, doubts remain over whether free and fair elections really can be held in January, as Mr Allawi insists they can.

Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, is not the only one warning that credible elections are not possible if current levels of violence persist.


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