U.S., Iraq report shift of power isgoing well

U.S., Iraq report shift of power isgoing well

Jeffrey Gettleman THE NEW YORK TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq — With less than three weeks to go before sovereignty returns to Iraq, American and Iraqi officials are saying that much of the transfer has already happened.

The new interim Iraqi government has been formed, the old governing council has been dissolved, and the majority of the ministries, including some crucial ones like oil, transportation and foreign affairs, have been turned over to Iraqi management.

Walid Saleh, planning director for the Water Resources Ministry, said his ministry used to be controlled by a team of six American water experts. Now, Saleh said, these advisers have become “consultants.”

“They work for us,” Saleh explained. “They are very good technicians and they give us expertise. But we make the decisions.”

The process that has been unfolding, with Iraqi leaders taking control of government operations and American advisers receding into the background, provides the clearest preview yet of what the American-Iraqi dynamic will be like after June 30.

In an elaborate ceremony that day, L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, will probably present a written declaration to the chief of Iraq’s judicial council recognizing the nation’s sovereignty.

In the run-up to June 30, both Iraqis and Americans are eager to demonstrate how independent Iraq already is. “June 30 will not be some magical date when Iraqis suddenly assume authority,” said Dan Senor, an American adviser.

Mufeed al-Jazairi, the minister of culture, said ever since a formal “sovereignty ceremony” last month, his ministry, with 2,300 employees, had been operating independently from the occupation government.

“I am the boss,” al-Jazairi said. “I am deciding about everything.”

With most of the political decisions resolved, Iraq’s security situation remains the greatest concern swirling around the June 30 date. Senor and other officials said a large terrorist attack was likely.

Copyright Copley Press Inc. 2004

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