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Iraqis Look Forward to Self-Government, British Diplomat Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2003 – Britain's top diplomat said today in Baghdad that members of the Iraqi Governing Council are pleased that an Iraqi-run government is slated to assume governance of the country early next summer.

A Nov. 15 agreement made between U.S., coalition and Iraqi officials, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw told reporters, calls for the resumption of Iraqi sovereignty through the establishment of a transitional government by June 30, 2004.

Governing council members recognized the importance of transferring political power from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the Iraqi people, Straw remarked, noting that the transition also will serve "as a means of enhancing security" throughout the country.

Straw's current two-day Iraq trip, he said, was primarily undertaken to discuss the upcoming transfer of government and other issues with Iraqi, U.S. and coalition officials.

The senior British diplomat noted that "a lot has changed" since July when he'd last visited Iraq, pointing to the accelerated pace for transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

While Straw conceded that the security situation in Iraq "remains difficult," he was optimistic that the transfer of power would go according to plan.

There was no question, he asserted, that Iraq will become "a far better place" as a result of the transition of government.

Therefore, it's imperative, Straw declared, to transfer political authority from the coalition to an Iraqi government "as quickly as possible and to ensure" that the country remains intact.

Straw opined that some sort of status of forces agreement would likely be made between authorities in Iraq's new government and the U.S.-coalition members.

British, American and other coalition troops would likely remain in Iraq, Straw pointed out, "as long as the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people want us to stay and there is a job for us to do."

U.S. and coalition leaders, Straw declared, are resolved to neutralize insurgents that remain loyal to former dictator Saddam Hussein and other disruptive elements in Iraq.

"We stay determined to see an end to Saddam and the introduction of peace, prosperity and democracy (in Iraq) for the longer term," he concluded.

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