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Iraq sovereignty handover completed
Updated: 2004-06-28 15:15

Iraq received its sovereignty from the US-led coalition after 14 months of occupation in an official ceremony in Baghdad.

The US civil administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, handed over legal documents to Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi who was flanked by the country's new President Sheikh Ghazi Al-Yawar, in a ceremony at around 10:30 am (0630 GMT), an AFP correspondent at the ceremony said.

U.S. administrator Paul Bremer (R) flanked by Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (2nd R) hands a letter to Iraq's most senior judge Midhat Mahmoud sealing the transfer of powers during a ceremony in the capital Baghdad June 28, 2004. The United States transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on Monday, formally ending the controversial 14-month occupation two days earlier than expected. [Reuters]
Bremer handed Allawi and Yawar a letter from US President George W. Bush, requesting a resumption of diplomatic relations between the countries that were frozen in 1990 after then president Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

The ceremony was moved up from June 30 amid rising violence by insurgents that has claimed hundreds of lives.

Iraq's occupying powers formally transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on Monday -- two days earlier than expected -- to try to thwart guerrilla attacks, officials said.

Reuters correspondent Alistair Lyon, who was at the ceremony, said it was attended by Paul Bremer, the outgoing U.S. governor of Iraq, and top Iraqi government officials.

Combination file photos of Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (L) June 24, 2004 and U.S. administrator Paul Bremer (R) June 27, 2004. The formal handover of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government has been brought forward two days to Monday, a coalition source said June 28, 2004. The U.S.-led coalition had initially been expected to hand over to an interim Iraqi government on June 30. [Reuters]
In Istanbul, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari confirmed plans to bring the handover forward.

"I believe that we will challenge these terrorists, criminals, Saddamists and anti-democratic forces by bringing even the date of the handover forward," Zebari told reporters after meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Although an interim Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will have "full sovereignty," according to a U.N. Security Council resolution on the handover earlier this month, there are important constraints on its powers.

It is barred from making long-term policy decisions and will not have control over more than 160,000 foreign troops who will remain in Iraq. The government has the right to ask them to leave -- but has made clear it has no intention of doing so.

Guerrillas have mounted a series of bloody attacks this month aimed at disrupting the handover, and several foreign hostages have also been seized over the past week.

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