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UN Expresses Optimism Over Handover of Sovereignty in Iraq - 2004-06-28

News of the handover of sovereignty in Iraq has been received warmly in the halls of the United Nations. But words welcoming the end of occupation were mixed with words of caution about the likelihood of renewed violence.

Supporters and critics of the U.S.-led occupation agreed that the transfer of sovereignty is cause for hope. But they also agreed that security remains a serious obstacle to normalcy.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a statement read by spokesman Stephane Dujarric, welcomed Iraq back into the family of nations. He called on Iraqis to come together in a spirit of national unity and reconciliation.

"Their first duty is to assist their interim government to establish security for the population so that the difficult process of return toward normalcy can commence," he said.

The Security Council issued a statement urging all countries, as well as regional and international organizations, to join hands to help the new Iraq.

The statement, read by the council president, Philippine Ambassador Lauro Baja, underscored that security is still everyone's primary concern. "The members of the council condemn, in the strongest terms, the continued violence in Iraq, which should not be allowed to disrupt Iraq's political and economic transition," he said.

German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger, whose government has been a consistent critic of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, had praise for the decision to hand over sovereignty several days early. "I think it was a very good move, because maybe it has prevented lots of trouble that insurgents might have planned. So I think it was a very intelligent move," he said.

Chile's ambassador, Heraldo Munoz, expressed concern at the dangerous conditions in Iraq. He nevertheless called this a day of hope. He said the United Nations must now overcome its fears and take a leading role, including the immediate job of preparing for elections.

"It is a dangerous situation, but the role of U.N. is absolutely vital if there is to be representative government elected in January 2005, it will be thanks to the UN collaboration," he said.

The top U.N. adviser on Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, expressed hope that Iraqi opponents of the occupation would accept that their opposition is no longer necessary. He called on opposition forces to try to find common ground on which to rebuild their country.

Mr. Brahimi also called on what he called "the former occupying powers" to show the Iraqi people that they are there to provide security as long as necessary, but that they will be leaving.