President Bush hails elections in Iraq as historic

President George W. Bush hailed Thursday's voting in Iraq as "a major milestone" in establishing a democratic ally for the United States in the Middle East and moving toward the day when American troops can come home.

The appearance of a buoyant Bush in the Oval Office alongside six smiling young Iraqis displaying purple-stained fingers was an attempt to capitalize on any positive news in Iraq. The parliamentary elections carried high stakes for a &to=' target=_blank>White House that has been confronted with increasing dissatisfaction about the war in the public arena and among many in Congress.

Bush said "there's a lot of joy, as far as I'm concerned" about the voting, and said he was happy with the turnout even without final tabulations.

"We're certain that the turnout was significant and that the violence was down," Bush said, standing in the Oval Office before a roaring fire.

There was a strong turnout in Sunni Arab areas, reinforcing U.S. hopes of seeing a stable government and calming the insurgency enough to begin withdrawing some American troops next year. Sunnis had shunned voting last January. There were expected to be delays in counting the votes.

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