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World Welcomes Hand-over of Power in Iraq - 2004-06-28

Governments around the world have welcomed the transfer of power in Iraq that formally ended the U.S.-led occupation there Monday.

There has been a collective sigh of relief from Europe to the Middle East and Asia that the American-led occupation of Iraq has formally ended.

Two of the strongest critics of the Iraq war, France and Germany, both welcomed the handover of power. A spokeswoman for French President Jacques Chirac said France wishes all success to the Iraqi interim government and the Iraqi people. Germany's foreign ministry called the development a major step toward Iraq's reintegration into the family of nations.

The strongest U.S. ally in the war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said the coalition in Iraq will now assume a secondary role, focused on security.

"The important thing is to understand that the will of the whole international community now is that Iraq takes control of its own destiny," Mr. Blair said. "Iraq should be run by Iraqis. We are there to help and support from now on, in terms of security particularly."

Another member of the coalition, Poland, said through a senior defense official that the political schedule for stabilizing Iraq has been carried out, and the next step will be elections planned for early next year.

Regarding those elections, a spokesman for the European Union said a special EU representative could be sent to Iraq to offer support for electoral preparations.

Initial reaction from some of Iraq's neighbors also was positive. A Jordanian spokesman said the handover is a step toward rebuilding political, economic, security and social institutions in Iraq.

An Iranian spokesman said Iran welcomes the return of Iraqi sovereignty and the end of the occupation.

The move was also welcomed in Asia. Japan expressed hope that the political process in Iraq makes steady progress. A spokesman for the Philippines government said Filipinos join the Iraqi people in their yearning for peace.

The world's oil traders marked the transition by driving prices on the London petroleum exchange to their lowest levels in two months. Traders say the early handover has deprived terrorists of a fixed date to launch attacks on Iraq's oil industry.