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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Signing Ceremony Took Place in Green Zone

Aired June 28, 2004 - 03:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get some perspective on the events. Mark Joyce, at the Head of the Transatlantic Program at the Royal United Services Institute. Thanks for being with us, Mark. Just to put this in perspective with regards to NATO members in this summit that's happening in Turkey right now, these countries must be quite happy that the handover happened a bit ahead of schedule and surprised us all. It seems like it happened in a smooth way. What do you think?
MARK JOYCE, TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: The timing is very interesting, particularly in terms of the NATO summit. The NATO allies have always been adamant, and certainly the secretary general in recent speeches, that any formal NATO role in Iraq must be at the invitation of an Iraqi government. Now bringing the full handover by two days sends this message out very clearly that NATO's there at the invitation of the Iraqi government, not at the invitation of the Americans.

GORANI: Oh, so you think that it was planned in that way, for that reason, because the request for assistance and training for Iraqi troops by NATO countries was made in the context that now it's a sovereign Iraqi government that has made that request, not a U.S. request made without the Iraqi government?

JOYCE: Well, it certainly appears that way when looked at in the context of the NATO summit. It appears to be something of a cosmetic gesture. As your correspondent and various reporters in the region have suggested, this isn't going to change things dramatically on the ground, if it changes them at all. But it could change the way in which this handover is perceived on the ground in Iraq, which is ...

GORANI: Mark? I'm just going to ask you to stay with us because we have some more on our breaking news story with our Christiane Amanpour in Baghdad, and Tony has that.

TONY CAMPION, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Hala. Let's go straight to Christiane now. Christiane, what can you tell us?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were at the ceremony. It was now exactly one hour ago and a few minutes that the transfer of sovereignty became official. At 10:26 local time, and we checked with the military watch there, the transfer of sovereignty became official. Ambassador Paul Bremer handed over a document to the Prime Minister and then that, in turn, was handed by the head of the supreme court of Iraq to the President of Iraq Ghazi Yawar. It was a small ceremony. It took place inside the Green Zone, inside the office that we're told is the prime minister and the president's office, not far from where we're standing now but not in this building. And it was, in terms of the cast who were there, the Deputy Prime Minister Barum Zala (ph), the Head of the Iraqi Supreme Court Dr. Medhad al-Mamohdy (ph), then there was the Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, and sitting next to him was Ambassador Paul Bremer, who now refers to himself as the ex- administrator of Iraq.

There was also the British counterpart, Bremer's deputy, David Richmond, and there was also, as I say, the President of Iraq Ghazi Yawar. So they had some speeches in which they talked to each other about this historic day, as they called it.

Dr. Yawar, the President, said, "This is a historic and happy day for us Iraqis, a day that all Iraq has been looking forward to. This is the day that we take our country back and make it part of the international community. We hope that this will mark the beginning of a peaceful and stable Iraq in order to play its role in the community of nations."

He praised the coalition forces who had come here. He said that all the sacrifices would not be in vain, and that as far as the new Iraqi government was concerned, there would be no turning back. We are going to continue with a free and democratic Iraq. That was from the president.

Then it was the turn of the prime minister to talk, and he also repeated that this was, indeed, a historic day, that they had requested the transfer of sovereignty two days early and they have -- they did it today in a ceremony that was secret right up to the very moment of the handover of the documents.

He said that we feel we are capable and we're in control, and he said we're also in control of the security situation. Now I say that because the security situation is one that is very, very important and it's a situation that is the backdrop to all of this.

It is the situation that they've vowed that they're going to crack down on. And he said, the prime minister, that today at some point, perhaps in the next couple of hours, he would be publicly announcing the measures that Iraq and its security forces are going to be taking in terms of meeting what they promised would be a showdown with terrorists and insurgents.

Ambassador Bremer spoke, he said that it was his pleasure to hand over sovereignty of Iraq to the new government today. He said that they have laid out their security vision, that they are ready now for sovereignty and we think that this is the right time and we met your request, referring to the Iraqi government, to turn over sovereignty today. He said, "I leave Iraq comfortable in the knowledge that you will meet the challenges and forge ahead."

Basically that's the extent of the ceremony. After the few speeches that I mentioned people stood up, Ambassador Bremer had a blue binded document which he looked at. There were lots of pictures taken. He was looking at it with the prime minister and then gave it to the prime minister. That was then given to the head of the supreme court who, in turn, gave the document to the President of Iraq, and that was the end of the ceremony.

Afterwards coalition officials told us that -- when we asked why had this been brought up a couple of days, and we were told that Prime Minister Allawi had said to the Americans that every day matters, that now we have our security plan in place, he said, we have pretty much transferred all authority from the U.S. administration to all the Iraqi ministries, and he said every day matters and we need to get on with our priorities. Of course, top amongst those priorities is trying to restore some kind of order.

Now all those words were said by nobody's in any doubt as to how difficult a challenge that will be. You know the most powerful military in the world has been here for 15 months since the war ended and this insurgency keeps growing apace.

So there are no illusions, I don't think, that this going to be a very severe test and a very difficult test. And even though the Iraqis say that they're going to mobilize their police and their security forces, we have been told by the top U.S. generals here that American forces will be right around the corner, right beside them, right near them ready to provide support at any time. Back to you.

CAMPION: Christiane, this sort of had the effect -- bringing the ceremony forward two days -- it will have the effect of wrong footing anyone who was intent on disrupting the ceremony on Wednesday. Do we have any idea when this surprise was planned?

AMANPOUR: No, to be honest with you, certainly, we don't have any idea. But, obviously, they've been making these contingency plans all along. They've kept the sort of detailed logistics of this handover very close to their chest for obvious reasons.

And we were called here, a small group of reporters, a pool camera, were called really just about an hour before it took place. And we were brought here and we weren't even told what it was going to be. Telephones were confiscated, radios were confiscated, and we went in and we saw that this was, indeed, the ceremony. And when we came out we reported it just as quickly as we could.

CAMPION: You said that now ex-Ambassador Paul Bremer is in -- will be leaving Baghdad -- leaving Iraq very shortly. What else happens now in terms of the effective transfer of power, practical terms? Certain government departments, you said, have already essentially been under the auspices of Iraqi control, but how does that process complete itself and how does the coalition administration totally step away from the process of administering the country?

AMANPOUR: Well, Ambassador Bremer, who is now the ex- administrator, is leaving today. We don't know and we won't be allowed to report what time, again, for obvious reasons. This is his last ceremonial appearance. There will be no ceremonies involving Ambassador Bremer in relation to the ongoing handover logistics. He will be escorted to the airport by the deputy prime minister and seen off there.

In the meantime, over the next few days the Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, is going to be swearing in the other members of his cabinet because there were only himself and his deputy there, also the supreme court justices, as I said, and the president. So Allawi will be swearing in, we're told, over the next few days, his cabinet. And then they get on with it.

I mean, the Americans are here, the administrators have formally dissolved that occupation, that administration. But advisers will be here to an extent and certainly the forces will still be here with a very big -- in the current numbers. There is no planned draw down of any of the headquarters in terms of -- or any of the units that are dotted around this country.

CAMPION: If the Iraqis truly do now have sovereignty, then by definition Iraq could in principle ask foreign troops to leave its territory. Is it clear in terms of, you know, the known international laws and the practicalities of the situation on the ground in Iraq, how much control they'll actually have over those foreign troops while they are in the country?

AMANPOUR: Well, there was a side letter to the U.N. resolution that governs this whole post-occupation period. There was a side letter on the military issues that was written by the interim government to the United States government about the forces, that they have been invited to stay. But, obviously, when we talk to top generals and top officials here, you know, they fully expect to play a continued security role and certainly, you know, support if not more than support.

But when we asked them, what if there's a specific mission that the Iraqi government simply does not want you to undertake, they acknowledge that it would be pretty awkward to contradict or go against what the sovereign government wants. I think this is definitely going to be a work in progress and I think that these issues are going to be faced on an issue-by-issue basis.

But at the moment there is an agreement and the Iraqi government has asked the U.S. and other coalition troops to stay here to provide security. And the question is about specific missions. But these are still early days and those issues probably won't raise their head for a matter of weeks or months to come.

CAMPION: Well, you know, I was just going to ask you, you know, six or seven months away from elections, which will end the interim administration -- this government, of course, strictly an interim government -- and move to a full elected government, what -- Christiane, in fact, we are going to show some pictures of the handover taking place. And as I understand this is coming to us live, let's listen in.

L. PAUL BREMER, FORMER IRAQI CIVIL ADMINISTRATOR: ... will cease to exist on June 28, at which point the occupation will end and the Iraqi interim government will assume and exercise full sovereign authority on behalf of the Iraqi people. We welcome Iraq's steps to take its rightful place in equality and honor among the free nations of the world. Sincerely, L. Paul Bremer, ex-Administrator to the Coalition Provisional Authority.

CAMPION: OK, we have been watching taped pictures, in fact, of the handover ceremony. Now ex-Administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer handing sovereignty of Iraq to the country's new leaders, the Prime Minister Ayad Allawi; and the President Ghazi Yawar. Christiane Amanpour witnessed what you've just seen and she is in Baghdad. Christiane, talk us through again, for those who just joined us, what you saw.

AMANPOUR: We're not sure exactly the point at which you're seeing the pictures, but when we walked into the room the cast of dignitaries was already seated. There was, in terms of left to right, there was the Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister, Barum Zala (ph); there was the Head of the Iraqi Supreme Court, Dr. Medhad al-Mamohdy (ph); there was the Prime Minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi; there was Ambassador Paul Bremer, who is now formerly the ex-administrator as he referred to himself; and there was the British Deputy to Bremer, David Richmond.

There was also the President of Iraq, now the new President of Iraq, Dr. Ghazi Yawar; and a host of other people there who were acting as translators and official note takers and spokespeople. So what happened was they exchanged greetings. They exchanged statements on what this day meant.

They called it the historic day that Iraqis had been looking forward to, that they were looking forward to taking Iraq back into the international community, that Iraq they hoped would be a peaceful and stable country to play its rightful place in the world, and they said that there was no turning back.

They praised the sacrifice of U.S. and other troops that liberated Iraq more than a year ago. And they said that this would not be in vain and that they would be committed to the democratic process. They listed as their priority to get security under control. There was an opportunity after the exchange of speeches, after the exchange of documents. At one point all the dignitaries stood up. Paul Bremer had a blue bound document that was the sovereignty agreement, the transfer agreement.

He had signed it earlier this morning in his office and then brought it, and then when he gave that over that marked the transfer of sovereignty. That was at 10:26 a.m. this morning. When we checked with a member of the military there, General Kimmitt, who as you know as become well known as the spokesman for the coalition, he told us what time it was and therefore officially it is 10:26 a.m. local time when they received sovereignty of their own government and they become now the government of Iraq.

After the exchange of the documents there was some clapping, as you heard, and then they sat down and took a few questions from some of us who were there in the room. Paul Bremer said that he believed that Iraq was most definitely a better place for being liberated from Saddam. He mentioned that just yesterday he had been to a mass grave site in Hillah, which is south here of Baghdad, and said that there was no question that that kind of tyranny has been -- has been abolished and that it is a much better day for Iraq, although he did mention the challenges ahead.

And when we asked the Prime Minister how he planned to use the new Iraqi forces, which everybody acknowledged are not up to policing or controlling this country yet, how he could assure his people that that would be a task that they could undertake when the most powerful governments -- most powerful military in the world had not been able to do it in 15 months, he made this differentiation.

He said, "The military of the United States came here as a war- fighting machine to liberate this country. That is what they are good at. They are not -- they are not police forces. We are going to deploy our police forces." And he is hoping that Iraq on Iraq, Iraqis on Iraqis will be able to do something different than perhaps what the U.S. and other troops were able to do here.

He's calling on the people of Iraq to help, to come forward with information. He yesterday told us that he was going to offer an amnesty or a pardon to any of the insurgents, including anti-American insurgents, provided they come forward with information on the terrorists and insurgents. He said he would do that but only to people who did not have blood on their hands, only to people who were not involved in any crimes or any killing ...

CAMPION: OK, Christiane, I'm sorry. I'm just going to try again to interrupt to apologize. We want to bring you the viewers up to day with what Ayad Allawi's been saying about this. Couple of minutes ago he made these remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AYAD ALLAWI, IRAQI INTERIM PRIME MINISTER: To ensure our security and this is something that we will carry forward.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question over here (ph)? Go ahead.

QUESTION: The recent movement of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Washington both (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prime Minister, you have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) recently you said that ...

ALLAWI: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMPION: Clearly a convivial atmosphere. The -- in the wake of the handover ceremony, Ayad Allawi, the Interim Prime Minister of the now sovereign Iraq speaking in Arabic. And so we'll bring in again our Christiane Amanpour who is at the ceremony. Christiane, a few minutes ago you alluded to the fact that, you know, as far as this government is now concerned it's all about elections, which could be some six or seven months ago and, you know, obviously, security comes pretty much top of the list for the administration. But crucially behind the scenes to how this administration can function as a government, is the question of how much money Iraq nominally owes to the rest of the world.

Now, of course, you know, a long, long way from where you are at USEU summit in Ireland over the weekend, there were comments from international leaders whereby essentially the Europeans -- the United States agreed in principle that debt relief would be important for Iraq.

We're talking about physically how much money the country has to spend on its infrastructure, security, roads and so on. You know, how important is that from your perspective and what have you heard said about this in Iraq, you know, the coffers, if you like, of the country?

AMANPOUR: Well, let's just in terms of putting that in context say this, Prime Minister Allawi had an op ed in one of the newspapers this weekend in which he laid out his priorities. They were security -- they were security, they were employment, they were rule of law and then democracy, so the security, and the economy, rule of law, democracy.

Obviously, the economy is a massive challenge for them. This is an oil-rich nation but it is not a nation that has yet got its oil infrastructure or its oil exports up to the point where it can finance reconstruction. So, you know, there have been billions of dollars promised by the United States.

Not all of those have been sent. In fact, just a fraction of that $18.7 or so billion that has been promised by the Congress of the United States has not all been spent yet. So that is unclear to me right now how that is going to be spent. It's pretty much going to -- it was going to contractors and building projects, but again, it had been held up quite considerably.

The other critical issue on the economy is getting people jobs. This is a big, big problem here. The jobless rate is very high and it causes not just pain for people but a great deal of frustration and it potentially opens people without jobs to being vulnerable to being recruited to the insurgency. So that's a very important matter.

However, none of this, according to the government, can be fixed unless the security is fixed. The security situation, the violence, the insurgency, the terrorism, is principally responsible for the lack of foreign investment, for the scaring off rich Iraqi exiles who would have been encouraged to come back and invest, for scaring off many of the contractors.

You can name any ministry here, any big power plant, and many of their people who come to try to rebuild these places have left because of the violence, because they've had members of their own team killed or kidnapped and the like.

So this security environment has got to be fixed if a proper investment in economy and services are going to be allowed to stand without constantly being sabotaged and, therefore, that's why security is their top priority. But in terms of exactly how much cash and where it is, I think the question and the jury on that is still out. All right.

CAMPION: Christiane Amanpour, live to us from Baghdad. We've have you back with us before long, Christiane. Thanks for that.

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