(CNSNews.com) - President Bush called Wednesday's inaugural meeting of the 275-member Iraqi National Assembly a "bright moment" in that nation's history.
"We've always said this was a process, and today was a step in that process. It's a hopeful moment, though," the president said at a White House press conference Wednesday morning.
Wire reports said the assembly - elected on Jan. 30 - convened in Baghdad amid tight security overhead and half a dozen mortars exploding outside. The explosions are presumed to be a message from terrorists opposed to the democratic process.
The session opened with a reading from the Quran, wire reports said, then the elected officials took their oath of office.
In addition to choosing a president and prime minister, the Assembly must write a constitution, which is the most important order of business. The draft is due by Aug. 15.
'Vindication for Bush Policies'
Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), a member of the House Armed Service Committee, noted that Wednesday is also the anniversary of Saddam Hussein's WMD attack on the Kurds in 1988, when 5,000 men, women and children were slaughtered in the town of Halabja.
"This is a truly historic moment for the people of Iraq and for the entire region as the newly elected Iraqi National assembly meets for the first time," Akin said in a press release.
"Americans were inspired by the courage of Iraq citizens as they defied threats to their own personal safety and overwhelmingly participated in their nation's elections, and we are now seeing how their courage is inspiring change in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region."
Akin called Wednesday's inaugural meeting of the Iraqi National Assembly further vindication of President Bush's policies.
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