PM says early handover sensible

At a ceremony in Baghdad, the US civilian administrator, Paul Bremer, handed over sovereignty documents to Iraq’s interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, two days earlier than planned.

Mr Howard says the early handover of power is a welcome development, but Australia’s troops are still needed to help restore security.

“It was a sensible thing to do given the security position.

“There is no reason why it shouldn’t have taken place a couple of days earlier.

“It is important that the multi-national force remain to assist the Iraqi security forces.

“The terrible terrorist attacks and beheadings are part of a package of disruption all designed to stop Iraq having a democratic future.”

The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, says the plans to bring the handover forward were kept secret because of fears the ceremony could become the target of a terrorist attack.

The President of the Australian Arabic Council, Roland Jabbour, says that many Iraqis will not accept that sovereignty really has been handed over by the Coalition until an Iraqi government is elected by the people.

“Unfortunately when we talk about a sovereign government, unless we reach the stage where there is an elected government by the people of Iraq, this current government is seen by many Iraqis as just simply another form of occupation, merely appointed by the American forces currently in Iraq.”

The Australians Greens leader, Bob Brown, says the secrecy of the handover shows the war in Iraq has not been sucessful in bringing a better future to the country.

“And this is another direct indicator that Prime Minister Howard got us into a war that we should never have been involved in.

“They cannot even hold the transfer ceremony in public with the authority that an occupying force should have.”

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