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Coalition Hands Sovereignty to Iraq  Ahead of Schedule - 2004-06-28

Eluding attempts by insurgents to disrupt the handover of sovereignty to Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition transferred power Monday to an interim government a few days ahead of schedule.

At a small ceremony Monday morning inside the heavily guarded Green Zone area of Baghdad, Iraq's chief American administrator, Paul Bremer, reading a statement, turned over legal documents to interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, officially giving Iraqis long-awaited sovereignty.

"We welcome Iraq's steps to take its rightful place with equality and honor among the free nations of the world," said Mr. Bremer.

Prime Minister Allawi thanked the United States. "They helped us in liberating our country, we are very thankful," said Mr. Allawi.

Mr. Allawi said he requested the early transfer of sovereignty because Iraqis needed to control their own destiny as soon as possible. He says the security of his people is his first priority.