WASHINGTON - U.S. President George W. Bush said on Monday that he would
grudgingly accept an Islamic fundamentalist government in Iraq, if the
Iraqi people voted to create one in free elections.
"I would be disappointed, but democracy is democracy," Bush said in an
interview with the Associated Press, when asked about the possibility that
Iraqis might some day prefer an Islamic government to secular rule.
"If that's what the people choose, that's what the people choose," the
AP said the interview took place aboard Air Force One as Bush traveled to a
campaign stop in New Jersey.
Bush's rare reference to the prospect for Islamic rule appeared to clash
with previous remarks from an administration that rejected popular calls
for an Iranian-style Islamic state in Iraq soon after the fall of Saddam
Hussein's regime in April 2003.
A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said
the president has long believed that Islam is compatible with democracy.
Free elections are expected next January in Iraq, and Bush has touted the
prospect for democratic governments there and in Afghanistan as evidence
that his administration is making progress in the U.S. war on terrorism..