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New Iraqi President Outlines Challenges Facing Interim Government - 2004-06-10

Iraq's new president, Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar, says it may take another year for Iraq's security forces to take full control of protecting the country's stability. He expects multinational forces to remain in the country well beyond the June 30 handover of sovereignty. Mr. al-Yawar also insists that the interim administration and any future government in Iraq must make sure that power is shared and not concentrated in one ruler.

President al-Yawar recognizes the country's security forces are not yet capable of taking over responsibility. He said that multinational forces will remain to prevent a security vacuum.

?Right now it's not quite strong enough to take matters into their hands solely in Iraq. That's why we need the multinational forces,? he said. ?We hope that we're going to expedite working on a real and robust program to enhance Iraqi security forces ability in the near future. It might take a few months, it might take up to a year. That depends on how fast we go and how things are on the ground.?

Still, Mr. al-Yawar expects that border security will be under Iraqi control.

The U.N. Security Council resolution passed earlier in the week has endorsed U.S. arrangements with the interim administration on continuing multinational military operations after July 1. The arrangements include cooperation on handling sensitive operations, but stop short of giving Iraq veto power over military offensives.

Talking to reporters about the transition of sovereignty, Mr. al-Yawar was clear that power would not be consolidated in one figure as it was under Saddam Hussein.

"The essence of the new philosophy of leadership in Iraq is not to focus all the responsibility or the power in one hand," he said. "We want the prime minister and president to share responsibility and power and afterward whenever we have an elected body, there will be a legislative body too."

Mr. al-Yawar says the U.N. Security Council resolution endorses Iraq's full sovereignty as a federal democracy, but he acknowledges the power of the interim administration is temporary, even when it comes to international agreements.

"This interim government can exercise authority in all aspects, but should not commit Iraq to a long-term, more than a year or two, of commitments," he added.

The 45-year-old U.S.-educated engineer is in Washington to meet with top U.S. officials after attending this week's summit of the world's industrialized leaders, where he urged Iraq's lenders to forgive the country's hefty foreign debt.