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Volume 18, Number 21, May 19, 2004

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U.S. Full Tilt For June 30 Iraq Hand-Over

The U.S. government is taking steps to be ready for the transition of sovereignty to Iraq on June 30, government officials told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said their departments are doing what they can to prepare for life after the Coalition Provisional Authority goes away.

Armitage said the coalition has all the authority it needs to continue operating in Iraq under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1511. Still, he said, the United States wants to move as rapidly as possible in getting a new U.N. Security Council Resolution regarding Iraq.

He said U.S. diplomats have met with Security Council countries and other allies and have taken their concerns under consideration. Many countries have indicated they would participate in a U.N.-sponsored force in Iraq. The United States "does not have a piece of paper to put forward," Armitage said. Instead America will await the outcome of U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's consultations in Iraq before submitting a proposed new resolution. Brahimi is the U.N. secretary-general's special advisor for Iraq.

Armitage said newly confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte will not report to Baghdad for some time after June 30. He said this is to signal that Negroponte is not Coalition Administrator Paul Bremer's successor, and that his posting is the beginning of a new relationship between sovereign countries. "We want to make clear occupation is over and sovereignty belongs to Iraqis," Armitage said.

Negroponte's absence does not mean the State Department will not have strong leadership at the new "super embassy" in Baghdad, Armitage said. Jim Jeffries has been named the embassy's deputy chief of mission. He is a decorated Vietnam War combat veteran. Armitage said Jeffries "not only talks the talk, but has walked the walk," and that he will be able to relate and communicate with coalition military leaders.

Armitage stressed that the process really has already started. Eleven of the 25 Iraqi ministries are autonomous right now, with two more joining those ranks this week. "That means their ministers make all the decisions, prepare the budgets, are responsible for the programs, etc.," he said.

Wolfowitz told the senators that U.S. service members have accomplished amazing things already in Iraq. He said that as the coalition prepares to return sovereignty, the military work is not done. "The enemy that was defeated in major combat a year ago continues to sow death and destruction in the effort to prevent the emergence of a new Iraq," Wolfowitz said. "They and their terrorist allies from inside and outside Iraq understand that real defeat for them will come when Iraqis achieve the ability to govern themselves in freedom and to provide for the security of their own country."

The secretary said the enemy realizes the next 18 months will be so critical to them "because that is the time it will take to stand up Iraqi security forces that are fully trained, equipped and organized." That is also when Iraqis will elect a representative Iraqi government after 40 years of tyranny and abuse, he said.

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