Skip to comments.Hours Later, Bremer Leaves Iraq; New Premier Outlines Agenda
Posted on 06/28/2004 9:03:11 AM PDT by demlosers
BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 28 In a surprise, secret ceremony that was hastily convened to decrease the chances of more violence, United States officials today handed over sovereignty to Iraqi leaders, formally ending the American occupation two days earlier than scheduled.
In a tightly guarded room behind high walls, L. Paul Bremer III, the top United States administrator, presented a formal letter recognizing Iraq's sovereignty to Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
Just 30 or so people were present for what Dr. Allawi described as the "historic" handover.
A few hours later, Mr. Bremer flew off on a military plane, leaving behind a country stunned by the sudden transfer of authority. Shortly afterward, Dr. Allawi was formally sworn in as Prime Minister.
In Istanbul, where he was attending a meeting of NATO leaders, President Bush said "the Iraqi people have their country back."
Appearing with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, the United States' principal ally in the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Bush said: "Fifteen months after the liberation of Iraq and two days ahead of schedule, the world witnessed the arrival of a full sovereign and free Iraq."
"This is a historic day," said the Iraqi interim president, Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar . "We want a free, democratic Iraq that will be a source of peace and stability for the region and the whole world. We would like to express our thanks to our friends in the Coalition for the efforts and dedication they have spent."
The president added: "We want to tell them all their sacrifices will not go in vain. We are determined, we are committed, there is no way to turn back."
United States officials said the handover to an interim government, in advance of general elections expected in January is the crucial first step on Iraq's path to democracy.
"We welcome Iraq's steps to take its rightful place with sovereignty and honor among the free nations of the world," Mr. Bremer said.
But one of the new government's first actions as a sovereign power may be the imposition of martial law to crack down on guerrillas. Insurgents have stepped up attacks in recent weeks, presumably in an effort to disrupt a peaceful and orderly transition. Last Thursday, more than 100 people were killed in a series of apparently coordinated explosions in five Iraqi cities.
Already security forces, responding to today's announcement, were locking down sections of the capital. Several hotels refused to let guests go in or out, thousands of police stepped into the streets and American fighter jets cut arcs in the sky over Baghdad. Both American and Iraqi officials said they were expecting the handover to be marred by significant terrorist attacks.
Mr. Bush, gathered with NATO heads of state at a table at the summit, marked the transfer with a whispered comment and a handshake with Mr. Blair, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Looking at his watch to make sure the transfer had occurred, Mr. Bush put his hand over his mouth to guard his remarks, leaned toward Mr. Blair and then reached out to shake hands, the A.P. reported.
After the handover in Baghdad, the members of the interim government moved to a stage to be sworn in. They pledged to uphold a unified, democratic system; to take care of Iraq's people and resources, and to apply all legislation with sincerity.
Thanking Iraq's Arab neighbors and the coalition forces that "liberated Iraq," Dr. Allawi then laid out a broad agenda that included tackling unemployment, developing resources, rethinking investment laws, promoting the private sector, developing a national army and restoring full capacity to the oil sector, which has been damaged in sabotage attacks.
He also referred to the challenges of unifying a country with diverse ethnic groups including Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmens, and he promised to uphold Islamic values, according to a CNN translation of his Arabic remarks.
"Iraq is now at a setback but it is temporary," Dr. Allawi said, standing before members of the government seated in front of a row of Iraqi flags. "We will rise up like mountains, standing firm, and we will protect all people regardless of religion, color and every other consideration.
"Pluralism should be a factor of progress, not divisiveness," he said.
He also made it clear that the new government would be tough on insurgents.
"We will be on the lookout for them and chase them and bring them to justice to get their fair punishment," he said.
Although Dr. Allawi's government will have "full sovereignty," according to a United Nations Security Council resolution earlier this month, there will be limits.
The new Iraqi government, consisting of many wealthy exiles who spent years away from Iraq, is barred from making long-term policy decisions and will not control the 160,000 foreign troops remaining in the country. The government has the right to ask them to leave but has made clear it has no intention of doing so.
Last week Dr. Allawi was quoted as saying the deteriorating security situation might force elections to be postponed. But today he told reporters, "The Iraqi government is determined to go ahead with elections on January 2 of next year."
Also today, American officials said they had little further information on the fate of the Cpl. Wassef Hassoun, the missing United States marine whom kidnappers have threatened to behead.
Marine officials said Corporal Hassoun, a 24-year-old Muslim of Lebanese descent, was last seen June 19. He failed to report for duty on June 20.
On Sunday night, a little known group called the "Islamic Reaction," released a videotape on Arab television networks saying they had lured Corporal Hassoun off an American military base and abducted him. The group is threatening to kill the corporal unless the United States releases all Iraqi prisoners. The group did not give a deadline.
Four other men, three Turks and a Pakistani, are in similar circumstances, with kidnappers saying the hostages will be beheaded unless their demands are met.
American officials have blamed many of the kidnappings and terror attacks in Iraq on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian fugitive thought to have trained in chemical weapons in Afghanistan.
Today, rumors began to circulate that Mr. Zarqawi, who has a $10-million reward on his head, had been captured in Hilla, south of Baghdad and the scene of a recent suicide attack.
Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a coalition spokesman, however, denied those reports today and said Mr. Zarqawi is not in custody.
Christine Hauser contributed reporting from New York for this article.
"leaving behind a country stunned by the sudden transfer of authority"
The medidiots were the only ones left stunned
And they don't like being left out-of-the-loop, so it's going to slant their coverage against the handover...
If we started 2 Gulf Wars for "The Oil" then why did we volantary give up control of over 1/3 of the worlds oil supply?
Again - Bush runs circles around his political opponents, the terrorists, and the media.
Yep, y'alls got yer self a dumb as a box of rocks prez-E-dint. He's so dumb he's smart. [sarcasm intended]
I pray for success in Iraq. Here is where the rubber really meets the road. God bless America and may He bless Iraq with their fight to be free.
It's called being run out of town but the move may save the life of our Marine.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.