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Hopes for stability, fear of more violence surround sovereignty transfer in Iraq

SHARE Hopes for stability, fear of more violence surround sovereignty transfer in Iraq

AMMAN, Jordan — Arabs welcomed Iraq's formal return to self-rule Monday, but many cautioned that real power would remain with the Americans as long as U.S. troops were in the country.

The transfer of power was a "landmark" in Iraq's history, Jordan's King Abdullah II said in a message to Baghdad's interim leaders.

The king said Jordan will help Iraq "regain its position as an independent and democratic nation enjoying freedom and prosperity."

Jordanian government spokeswoman Asma Khader said the transfer of power raised hopes for eventual security inside its neighbor.

"Jordan welcomes this development and considers it a step toward rebuilding political, economic, security and social institutions in Iraq," Khader told The Associated Press.

U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer carried out the transfer of sovereignty two days earlier than scheduled in an apparent bid to throw off insurgents who may have tried to sabotage the process. Bremer handed over sovereignty documents to Iraqi Chief Justice Mahdi al-Mahmood in a small ceremony in Baghdad attended by Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

In Syria, the chief editor of the official Al-Baath newspaper, Mahdi Dakhlallah, called the handover "a step toward restoring independence and sovereignty in Iraq."

But a Syrian analyst said Iraq still was not in control.

"Occupation will wear a new dress," said Haitham Kilani, an independent political researcher in Damascus. "The occupation will remain so long as the U.S.-British forces are still stationed there."

In Cairo, Egyptians voiced similar views.

"Giving sovereignty to Iraqis is just a matter of improving the image," said Hassan el-Noubi, a security guard. "As long as the American soldiers are there, they didn't really hand over control."

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said the handover would help reduce the violence that has plagued Iraq since March 2003.

"I personally think that once the Iraqis feel that they are their own masters, and they have a government that has power, then this will make the restoration of stability easier," Maher said.

Kuwait's prime minister, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah congratulated interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer, the official Kuwait News Agency reported. Sheik Sabah said he hoped the transfer of power would "lay the foundations of security and stability."

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said in Cairo he hopes the interim government will be able to "exercise its sovereignty and power in a way that will bring it legitimacy."

Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said Tehran welcomed "any step toward the transfer of Iraqi affairs to the Iraqi people and the termination of occupation."

Iraqis living in Jordan questioned the motives of the interim Iraqi government.

"The members of the Iraqi government couldn't care less for the Iraqi people," said Leila Oman, a 66-year-old housewife who has lived in Jordan since 1995.

"They are enjoying power and will remain in it to help the Americans and steal the wealth of Iraqi people and make the poor poorer."

Adnan Hamad, a retired Iraqi civil servant in Jordan, called the transfer of sovereignty "American propaganda."

"The Iraqi people will not benefit from the so-called 'transfer of authority' because the new government will abide by the orders of the occupation," said Hamad, 75. "There could never be sovereignty or independence in Iraq while there is one occupation soldier in my country."

Iraq borders both Jordan, which maintains close relations with the United States, and Syria, which staunchly opposed the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Syrian Information Ministry official Ahmad Haj Ali said that what the interim Iraqi government should do is strive to get the U.S. troops to leave.

"There will be great security problems as a result of the U.S. presence," Haj Ali told the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera. "The government can make it if it adheres to its programs and ends the presence of the U.S. and other troops."

In Bahrain, historian Essa Amin said all the Americans had done was hand over the problems to an Iraqi government.

"I don't think anything has changed," Amin told The Associated Press. "Bremer is gone, but a new (U.S.) ambassador is in, and the Iraqis will not have complete decision-making powers."