The U.S.-led coalition authority handed sovereignty over to Iraq today, two days ahead of schedule, to thwart terrorism and give the initiative to the interim Iraqi government, a coalition spokeswoman said.
Ambassador Paul Bremer “handed legal authority” to Iraq’s Chief Justice Medhat Mahmud in a ceremony at 10.30 a.m. local time, Victoria Whitford said in a phone interview from Baghdad.
The handover, which was scheduled for Wednesday, was brought forward at the request of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, “who was ready to take control and put his policies into force,” she said. Bremer later left the country, Sky News reported.
“Restoring security” in the country 15 months after the U.S.-led invasion would be his government’s top priority, Allawi, 59, said in a press conference broadcast on television networks. “Tackling the terrorists is now our responsibility,” he said.
Iraq, the Middle East’s fifth largest oil producer last month, has suffered sustained attacks by insurgents throughout the country and on its oil infrastructure, resulting in disruptions to its crude exports.
The more than 150,000 foreign troops presently in Iraq have been unable to remove the terrorist threat in the country, which has resulted in the death of close to 700 coalition forces.