Occupation Ends; Iraqis Take Charge of Country's Fate
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 28, 2004 Sovereignty in Iraq passed from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the interim Iraqi government this morning, two days ahead of schedule.
In a 10-minute ceremony inside the heavily fortified "Green Zone" where coalition headquarters is located in Baghdad, CPA administrator Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III read a letter he had signed which dissolved the CPA.
"As recognized in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist on June 28, 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," Bremer read.
Bremer boarded a helicopter shortly after the ceremony and later left the country aboard a military C-130 Hercules transport plane. It was unclear when newly appointed U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte would arrive in Baghdad to take charge of what will become the world's largest U.S. Embassy.
"This is a historic and happy day for us in Iraq," said Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar after receiving the transfer documents. "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."
Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who reportedly sought the early transfer, expressed confidence in his government's ability to stabilize the violence- wracked country. "This is a historical day," he said. "We feel we are capable of controlling the security situation."
A poll cited in a Defense Department document called "Five Steps to Sovereignty" said 68 percent of Iraqis have confidence in the interim Iraqi government, and 79 percent think the interim government will make things better for Iraq. The new government has an 80-percent approval rating among Iraqis, 73 percent of whom approve of Allawi, and 84 percent of whom approve of Yawar.
The document said the interim government will operate under the rules defined in Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law, which it called "the most liberal basic governance document in the Arab world."
At a farewell meeting June 27 with the city, regional and provincial councils in Baghdad, Bremer expressed confidence in the new government's ability to take over Iraq's affairs.
"When I arrived in Baghdad in May last year, the city was still on fire from the looters," Bremer said. "There was not a single policeman on duty in the entire city. Not in Baghdad, not in Basra, not anywhere in the country. We were producing 300 megawatts of electricity in the entire country. A lot has gotten better."
Iraq now has 100,000 police officers on duty across the country, Bremer said. "There are not enough yet in Baghdad," he added. "Schools and clinics and hospitals have been reopened, though much has to be done to improve health care in Baghdad and in the country."
The now ex-administrator expressed optimism to the council members for Iraq's future. "I am very confident that Iraq in fact will get through this process of political development and will wind up as a beacon for countries in the region as Iraq has so often been in its very long 5,000-year history," he said. "The reason I'm confident is because of people like you, people all over the country who are willing to take up the job and the responsibility for Iraq, because the most important thing that happens when sovereignty returns to the Iraqi government is responsibility returns to the Iraqi people."
Bremer assured the Iraqi leaders that they won't have to go it alone. "We will still be here to help you," he said. "The multinational forces will still be here to help with security until the Iraqi forces are able on their own to deal with security. The American government will be here in the form of a very large American Embassy, which will help work with Iraqis to oversee the reconstruction projects which are now beginning already to make an impact on the Iraqi economy."
The United States will spend almost $19 billion in Iraq over the next 15 to 18 months, Bremer said, much of it on rebuilding of old infrastructure like electricity, water and sewage systems.
Another transfer took place earlier, as all five Iraqi armed forces recruiting centers formally were placed under the Iraqi defense ministry. The ceremony was conducted on a 227-applicant recruiting day a single-day high for June, officials said. The transfer was largely a formality, officials added, as the recruiting efforts at the country's stations in Baghdad, Basrah, Mosul, Sulaymaniyah and Irbil have been almost entirely Iraqi-run for nearly two months.