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Iraqis Demand Security from New  Government - 2004-06-28

Iraqis in Baghdad are cautiously welcoming the early transfer of sovereignty to an interim government. The transfer is raising some hope that the government will now have the power it needs to tackle the country's mounting security problem.

Like many Iraqis in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, months of escalating violence have left 21-year-old college student Nadim Mohammed frightened, and worried about the country's future.

Mr. Mohammed says he is happy to see Iraqis in charge of the country's affairs for the first time since Saddam Hussein was toppled almost 15 months ago. He says his most fervent hope is that the new government will be able to quell the violence that has caused so much death and misery for the Iraqi people.

"I think things are getting worse day after day and I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel," Mr. Mohammed said. "Security and stability is my first demand and after that, the economic problems of Iraq. They must do something to improve all of that."

Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, who was sworn into office several hours after the transfer of power, says the date was moved up because he believed the security threat could be better tackled if Iraqis were in charge as soon as possible. He says that bringing stability will be the government's number one priority.

But many Iraqis say they remain concerned about the large number of coalition troops, who have been asked by the prime minister to remain in Iraq to train and assist Iraqi forces.

There are currently about 160,000 troops from the United States, Britain and other countries in Iraq. Some Iraqis, like 36-year-old electrical engineer Salah Abdullah, blame the presence of coalition troops for much of the violence in the country and say Iraq cannot be called sovereign until they leave.

"It is not complete independence from the occupation force because the occupation force still exists on the ground," Salah Abdullah said. "I hope they will let the new government work, not interfere in their business."

Still, others say they believe Monday's handover of power was a positive step toward the goal of eventually having a democratically elected government in Iraq.

"It's a very big thing that we have our own government now and we're looking for elections to have our selected government," said 24-year-old Ahmed Amid, an employee at the Ministry of Communications. "Everything has a beginning and I think we've started with the correct thing."

Coalition officials hope that will be the prevailing Iraqi view, and that it will take the steam out of the insurgency and help bring stability to Iraq.