BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP - 28 June 2004) - The U.S.-led coalition transferred
sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government Monday, speeding the
move by two days in an apparent bid to surprise insurgents and
prevent them from trying to sabotage the step toward self rule.
U.S. Transfers Sovereignty to Iraqi Govt.
By TAREK EL-TABLAWY
Militants had conducted a campaign of car bombings, kidnappings
and other violence that killed hundreds of Iraqis in recent weeks
and was designed to disrupt the transfer, announced by the Bush
administration late last year. Intially, the Americans were thought
to have planned for about one more year of occupation.
Legal documents transferring sovereignty were handed over by
U.S. governor L. Paul Bremer to chief justice Mahdi al-Mahmood in a
small ceremony attended by about a half dozen Iraqi and coalition
officials in the heavily guarded Green Zone. Bremer took charge in
Iraq about a year ago.
``This is a historical day,'' Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi
said during the ceremony. ``We feel we are capable of controlling
the security situation.''
Bremer left Iraq on a U.S. Air Force C-130 about 12:30 p.m.,
said Robert Tappan, an official of the former coalition occupation
authority. He was accompanied by coalition spokesman Dan Senor and
close members of his staff.
President Bush marked the transfer with a whispered comment and
a handshake with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, gathered with
world leaders around a table at a NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey.
Stealing a glance at his watch to make sure the transfer had
occurred, Bush put his hand over his mouth to guard his remarks,
leaned toward Blair and then reached out to shake hands. Defense
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, a row behind the president, beamed.
Bush was briefed Sunday that the Allawi government was ready to
take power early. The transfer took place as Bush met with Blair,
French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder and other world leaders.
Allawi ``believed that it would improve his hand on facing the
security threat, and the security threat is obviously increasing up
to the day of June 30th. Is it going to prevent every act of
terror? No, and I don't think anybody has tried to claim that,'' a
senior administration official said.
The early transfer had been under discussion between Allawi and
U.S. officials for at least a week, a senior administration
official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Bremer's last moments in Iraq were spent in a meeting with Lt.
Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American commander in the country. An
aide to Bremer, also speaking on condition of anonymity, declined
to say precisely where Bremer was headed, saying only that ``he was
Although the interim government will have full sovereignty, it
will operate under major restrictions - some of them imposed at the
urging of the influential Shiite clergy which sought to limit the
powers of an unelected administration.
For example, the interim government will only hold power seven
months until, as directed by a United Nations Security Council
resolution, there must be elections ``in no case later than'' Jan.
31. The Americans will still hold responsibility for security. And
the interim government will not be able to amend the Transitional
Administrative Law, or the interim constitution. That document
outlines many civil liberties guarantees that would make
problematic a declaration of emergency.
As Iraq's highest authority, Bremer had issued more than 100
orders and regulations, many of them Western-style laws governing
everything from bankruptcy and traffic, to restrictions on child
labor and copying movies.
Some are likely to be ignored. One law requires at least a month
in jail for people caught driving without a license - something
many Iraqis do not have. Another demands that drivers stay in a
single lane, a rule widely ignored in Iraq's chaotic streets.
Others are more controversial. On Saturday, Bremer signed an
edict that gave U.S. and other Western civilian contractors
immunity from Iraqi law while performing their jobs in Iraq. The
idea outrages many Iraqis who said the law allows foreigners to act
with impunity even after the occupation.
A Bremer elections law restricts certain candidates from running
for office, banning parties with links to militias, for instance.
The Coalition Provisional Authority's laws remain in effect
after the occupation ends unless rescinded or revised by the
interim government, a task that another Bremer-signed law allows,
but only after a difficult process.
The new government's major tasks will be to prepare for
elections, handle the day-to-day running of the country and work
along with the U.S.-led multinational force, which is responsible
for security. The Iraqis can in principle ask the foreign troops to
leave - although it is unlikely this will happen.
However, the United States and its partners hoped that the
transfer of sovereignty would serve as a psychological boost for
Iraqis, who have been increasingly frustrated by and hostile to
foreign military occupation. U.S. officials hope that Iraqis will
believe that they are now in control of their country and that will
take the steam out of the insurgency.
All ministers in the new government were to be sworn in during
another ceremony expected later Monday, a senior coalition official
Asked why the new government decided to hold the transfer
earlier, he said Allawi had indicated his ministries were already
``Allawi said we are ready to take this all over ... it is part
of our security strategy ... to have Iraqi officials be held
accountable by Iraqis,'' the official said.
The ceremony took place in a formal room with Louis XIV
furniture in an office in the building formerly used by the Iraqi
Governing Council. Officials were seated in gilded chairs around a
table, in the center of which was a bowl of flowers with a small
Iraqi flag in it.
Just before the handover occurred, everyone stood up, and
documents were passed to the chief justice at 10:26 a.m. local time
- at that point, legal sovereignty was passed.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the coalition deputy operations chief,
was the only U.S. military official present.
Bremer sat on the couch with President Ghazi al-Yawer.
``We'd like to express our thanks to the coalition,'' al-Yawer
said. ``There is no way to turn back now.''
Bremer, wearing a dark suit and a blue tie with small white
dots, read the transfer document, which was inside a blue folder.
With a laugh, he referred to himself as the ``ex-administrator of
the Coalition Provisional Authority.''
Allawi stood on his right and al-Yawer on his left.
``The Iraqi government is determined to hold elections at the
scheduled date, which is January next year.'' Allawi said in
Arabic. He had told CBS television network that the election might
be delayed if the security situation did not approve.
There was little initial public reaction to the near-secret
transfer ceremony, which was broadcast on Iraqi and Arabic
satellite television stations. There was no celebratory gunfire -
which rattles through Baghdad when Iraq's national soccer team
defeats foreign clubs.
Workers were cleaning the area on Firdous Square where the
statue of Saddam Hussein was hauled down on April 9, 2003 at the
fall of the city. More police were seen in the streets.
Coalition officials said Bush had already sent a letter to
al-Yawer formally requesting diplomatic relations.
``You have said, and we agreed, that you are ready for
sovereignty,'' Bremer said in the ceremony. ``I will leave Iraq
confident in its future.''
Allawi said he requested that the sovereignty be transferred
earlier, reflecting a preference to have Iraqis control their own
destiny as soon as possible. Last Thursday, the coalition
transferred the final 11 of the 26 government ministries to full
Iraqi control, meaning Iraqis were already handling the day-to-day
operations of the interim administration.
Bremer went on a series of farewell visits to areas throughout
the country over the past few days.
With the transfer, the Iraqis now face the daunting task of
securing law and order with the help of about 135,000 U.S. troops
and about 20,000 more from other coalition countries.
Iraq handover of sovereignty completed
Low-key ceremony comes two days early
Monday, June 28, 2004 Posted: 0944 GMT
Iraq (CNN) -- The handover of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi
government took place at 10:26 a.m. Baghdad time Monday, two days
before the June 30 deadline previously announced by the U.S.-led
The preparations for the possibility of an early transfer were started a week ago, according to a senior U.S. official.
The low-key transfer ceremony happened inside the Coalition Provisional Authority's "Green Zone" headquarters in Baghdad.
Coalition Administrator Paul Bremer -- now the former administrator -- read his letter contained in the transfer document:
recognized in U.N. Security Council resolution 1546, the Coalition
Provisional Authority will cease to exist on June 28th, at which point
the occupation will end and the Iraqi interim government will assume
and exercise full sovereign authority on behalf of the Iraqi people. I
welcome Iraq's steps to take its rightful place of equality and honor
among the free nations of the world. Sincerely, L. Paul Bremer,
ex-administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority."
handed the transfer document to the head of the Iraqi Supreme Court,
who then gave it to President Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar. Prime Minister
Ayad Allawi and the deputy prime minister also attended.
a historic and happy day for us in Iraq," al-Yawar said. "It is a day
that all Iraqis have been looking forward to. This is the day that we
take our country back into the international community.
"We want a free and democratic Iraq, and we want a country that is a source of peace and stability for the whole world."
The interim Iraqi leaders expressed thanks to the coalition officials and troops, saying their sacrifices would not be in vain.
-- dressed in a business suit but wearing tan combat boots -- said he
was proud to have been able to return sovereignty. He said he was
confident the new government was ready to meet the challenges ahead.
boarded a helicopter less than an hour later to begin his trip out of
Iraq after 14 months as the administrator, according to coalition
military spokesman Mark Kimmett. Within two hours, he was out of the
Asked by reporters attending the ceremony about why the
handover was stepped up by two days, an Iraqi official said Prime
Minister Allawi requested it because "every day matters" and they were
ready to crack down on violence.
The decision to speed up the
ceremony came Monday morning as Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari
met with coalition leaders gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, for the NATO
Zebari told reporters in Istanbul that the early transfer of sovereignty is "a sign we are ready for the job."
"We are ready to take up our responsibility even before June 30th," he said.
Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman told reporters in
Istanbul: "We obviously welcome the handover because it's their
decision. It's them taking control."
The handover comes as
insurgents continue their attacks, with car bombings still taking many
lives and more hostages being seized.
television network Al-Jazeera broadcast a videotape Sunday of a man who
it said an Iraqi resistance group identified as a captured U.S. Marine.
coalition spokesman in Baghdad confirmed that a Marine has been missing
in Iraq since June 21, but stopped short of saying he might be a
The Pentagon and the coalition spokesman identified the
missing Marine as Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun with the 1st Marine
Expeditionary Force, but the Pentagon said it could not confirm that he
was the man shown in the video.