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Bush Speech to Outline Iraq Sovereignty Strategy - 2004-05-24

President Bush is giving the first of five weekly addresses to map out his administration's strategy for handing over limited sovereignty in Iraq. In Iraq, the latest opinion surveys show Iraqis are anxious to take control of their own lives.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says President Bush will outline a strategy for handing over sovereignty to Iraq. "He will talk about the political front. He will talk about the election front. The president will talk about how we are working to eliminate the security threats in Iraq and he will talk about our efforts to reconstruct Iraq's infrastructure."

Mr. Bush's speech is the first of five weekly addresses he will make on Iraq, leading up to the June 30 transfer of power. The goals he outlines will mirror the U.S. and British-proposed U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing the transfer of sovereignty.

Germany's U.N. representative, Gunter Pleuger, says the U.N. resolution should make it clear that Iraqis are gaining control over their political future. "It is important that resolution will make clear that we have a new start in Iraq, a political process, the restoration of sovereignty to Iraq, and we will make sure process provides Iraqi ownership for the political process as well as for the process of economic reconstruction," he said.

Most Iraqis are impatient for the transfer of sovereignty to be completed as hostility has increased toward occupation forces.

One third of Iraqis responding to a public opinion poll to be published later this week say they strongly support a radical anti-coalition Shiite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr. They view him as a nationalist for fighting against the coalition forces occupying Iraq.

But, Coalition spokesman Dan Senor says Iraqis also fear chaos if the coalition forces left too soon. "If I sum up what we see over and over in the polls, it's [good] to be free, sorry to be occupied, please don't go," he said.

The draft U.N. resolution would give responsibility for security to a multinational force under unified command. But the draft is not clear about how much authority Iraq's interim government would have over the forces.

In other developments, U.S. General Mark Kimmitt says an investigation is under way into last week's air strike in a remote area of the country near the Syrian border.

A homemade video obtained by a U.S. TV service showing scenes of celebration appears to support residents' claims that U.S. forces attacked a wedding party. U.S. forces say they were targeting foreign fighters.

"There are inconsistencies. We are doing an investigation," he said. "But at this point we have seen nothing that have caused us to change our minds. So that's why we need to get as much evidence as possible, hand it to the investigators and let's see where the investigation takes us."

In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, U.S. forces clashed again with militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr. But nearby Karbala was quiet after al-Sadr fighters appeared to have abandoned their positions there.