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5/30/04 - THE FUTURE OF IRAQ - 2004-06-01

On June 30th, Iraqis will take a major step toward self-government. On that day, the Coalition Provisional Authority will be dissolved and an interim Iraqi government will take over. “Full sovereignty”, says President George W. Bush, “will give Iraqis a direct interest in the success of their own government.”

The U.S.-led coalition will remain in Iraq to provide a security framework within which new Iraqi leaders can begin to build up the country’s political institutions. Coalition forces will not be withdrawn, says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, until Iraqi forces show that they are capable of meeting the security demands:

“Iraqis want to be protected by their own people, not by occupation troops, as they call them. So we are anxious to build up Iraqi forces, start to step back, and then, as the situation improves, bring our troop numbers down until the day, sometime in the future, when all of our troops come home.”

In the meantime, the U.S. is working to rally international support for Iraqi democracy. The United Nations is considering a new resolution that would authorize a U.S.-led multinational force to keep the peace in Iraq. Secretary of State Powell says that several nations, including Russia, Germany, and France, say they are willing to help Iraq with debt relief, police training, reconstruction funds, and civilian personnel:

“If there is one thing that has become clear in my discussions with all of my European colleagues, especially, [it] is that they realize that it is in our mutual interest for us to succeed in making Iraq a democracy. And they are committed to that end.”

Indeed, a sovereign, democratic Iraq is in the interest of the Middle East and the world. “The rise of a free and self-governing Iraq,” said President Bush, “would deny terrorists a base of operation, discredit their narrow ideology, and give momentum to reformers across the region. This would be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power, and a victory for the security of. . .the civilized world.”