CLEVELAND, D.C., Jan. 27 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush and Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawer conferred by phone Thursday as the country lurched towards controversial national elections.
The call between Bush and Yawer lasted only about 5 minutes, the White House said, but was the latest in a series of calls between Bush and Iraq's senior leaders.
"Obviously this election is a grand moment for the Iraqi people. It is a historic moment on their path to a democratic and peaceful future," spokesman Scott McClellan said.
"Obviously he is going to stay in close contact with leaders of the interim government, and I expect will remain in close contact with the leaders that the Iraqi people choose through the elections."
Iraqis vote Sunday for a 275-member national assembly, which will choose a president and two vice presidents and draft a constitution for a permanent government. Terrorists and other insurgents are opposed to the balloting and are increasing attacks on U.S. forces and Iraqi non-combatants to discourage turnout with the aim of undermining election result credibility.
Terrorists Thursday destroyed a school that was to be a polling place. Eleven Iraqis and one U.S. Marine were also killed in clashes south of Baghdad.
McClellan told reporters of the call while en route to Cleveland, where Bush was speaking on health care reform.