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Week's Events Leave Iraqis Feeling Upbeat About Future - 2004-07-02

The week's events, including the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government and the court appearance of former dictator Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants, has left many Iraqis feeling more optimistic about their future. This, despite continued violence, including rocket attacks in Baghdad on two central hotels Friday.

Many Iraqis say this was a historic week for Iraq. On Monday, the United States formally returned sovereignty to Iraq and two days later, Iraq assumed legal custody of former leader Saddam Hussein. He and 11 of his top aides appeared in an Iraqi court on Thursday to face numerous charges of murder and other crimes.

Muslim clerics spoke about the week's events at mosques throughout Iraq Friday.

One of them was Saad Moqad in central Baghdad.

The imam says this is a historic time for Iraq. He says, now that sovereignty has been returned to Iraq, the next step will be free elections. And, he says, there is much evidence against former leader Saddam Hussein who, he says, will one day face the same punishment he inflicted on so many Iraqis. This, too, he says, will be a historic day.

Many Iraqis said the events unfolded too fast to be fully digested, but they feel optimistic about the future of their country.

The director of Asyrian television in Baghdad, Sarmad Sahat, takes a historical perspective on this week.

Mr. Sahat says, after Iraq's 1968 revolution, Iraqis were excited about the future and believed the country was heading for more prosperous times. Instead, he said, the country was devastated by the regime of Saddam Hussein. And now, the television director says, the return of sovereignty and the trial of Saddam, are once again causing Iraqis to feel a better future is coming.

The July 17, 1968, coup overthrew President Abdel-Salim Arif, and thrust Saddam securely on the path to power.

Mr. Sahat, like many others, said the events of the week were filled with symbolism and contrasts, most of all, the television images of a young Iraqi judge reading out the charges against the defiant former dictator. "That image," Mr. Sahat said, "represented the new, free Iraq emerging from a brutal and repressive past."