WASHINGTON – The White House welcomed a last-minute agreement to gain Sunni Arab support on a new Iraqi constitution as a positive step on Wednesday but cautioned that it likely would do little to quell violence directed at Saturday's vote. President Bush (search) urged Syria to do more to seal its borders against Iraq-bound militants.
"We have always emphasized the importance of encouraging as broad a participation in the political process as possible. We believe the political process should be inclusive," White House spokesman Scott McClellan (search) said of the deal on the constitution.
But, McClellan added, "The more the Iraqi people move forward on the political process, the more desperate the terrorists become. We expect to see continued violence because the terrorists understand how high the stakes are in Iraq."
He spoke as Iraqi lawmakers met to consider a compromise to gain Sunni support on the draft constitution. The speaker of Iraq's parliament said the compromise had been approved. The special session of parliament was called after Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish powerbrokers reached the breakthrough on the charter, reviving hopes of winning Sunni approval of the document in Saturday's nationwide referendum.
"This is a positive step. We welcome it," McClellan said. "We believe such steps will help Iraq move forward on the path to a strong and lasting democracy."
"This agreement will encourage more people to participate in the political process, not only this weekend but in the future," he said.
At the State Department, spokesman Adam Ereli said the agreement "shows, frankly, that the political process in Iraq is working." He said the agreement opens the way for the vote Saturday on the constitution to be broadly inclusive.
Asked about the role of U.S. Ambasador Zalmay Khalilzad (search), Ereli said the envoy "helped forge compromises when gaps needed to be bridged."
Meanwhile, Bush said the United States expected "Syria to do everything in her power to shut down the transshipment of suiciders and killers into Iraq. We expect Syria to be a good neighbor to Iraq."
Bush spoke with reporters at the conclusion of an Oval Office meeting with visiting Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski (search).