With President Bush in Turkey Monday at a NATO summit, the U.S.-led coalition quietly transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government in a low-key ceremony, two days ahead of schedule. The interim body will govern until Iraqi elections are held in January.

“This is a historical day,” interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said during the ceremony. “We feel we are capable of controlling the security situation.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe:

Iraq has “reached a critical milestone in taking control of its own destiny with the handover of sovereignty,” she said. “With the process of self-rule and determination entering a critical but also hopeful new chapter, now is the time for the Iraqi people to seize this life-changing opportunity and begin to shape a new nation as Iraq moves forward toward a democratic government with elections currently expected early next year.

“Our troops and our nation have made incalculable sacrifices for the liberation of Iraq from the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. At the same time, a truly successful transition will be aided when other countries in the Middle East and the global community that benefit from a stable and democratic Iraq help create such a nation. Over the coming months, there must be greater participation by our allies to secure Iraq during this key time, and that includes committing their own troops to that cause.”

Sen. Susan Collins:

“A stable and independent Iraq that embraces democracy, freedom and the rule of law will bring a better life to Iraqi people and serve as a foundation for a peaceful and thriving Middle East in the years to come.

“But most important is the fact that Iraqis are now in control of their own destiny. I echo the sentiments of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who speaks for most Iraqis in saying, We want a free and democratic Iraq, and we want a country that is a source of peace and stability for the whole world.’ “

Rep. Michael Michaud:

“I hope that this step will allow us to enlist further aid from NATO, the United Nations and other countries as we move toward a more international peacekeeping force. This transfer strengthens the hope that a day when a democratic Iraq is no longer plagued by violence is attainable.

“Any positive development in Iraq that facilitates the country’s transition to democracy and helps us bring our troops home safely and as quickly as possible is cause for celebration.”

Rep. Tom Allen:

“The transfer of power to the Iraqi government is a welcome and hopeful step. It is needed to enable Iraqis to take responsibility and ownership of their own future.

“However, we cannot claim that Iraqis have full sovereignty, as long as an occupying force of 150,000, mostly American, troops provides their security. Transfer of power may mean little to the average Iraqi, to whom American policymakers promised an easy liberation, but who has instead experienced food shortages, unemployment, power blackouts and continual violence under the occupation.

“Until security is firmly established, it will be difficult to make real progress toward the mammoth tasks of rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, restoring its economy, conducting fair elections and giving Iraqis optimism about their future.”



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