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Handover of Iraq Occurs Two Days Early

Aired June 28, 2004 - 04:00   ET


TONY CAMPION, CNN ANCHOR: Let us go to Anderson Cooper, who's going to pick up coverage where we have left off.
GORANI: Anderson, over to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you. What a historic day it is here in Baghdad. As you said, at 10:26 a.m. an event Iraqis have waited an awfully long time for and yet surprised that it happened so quickly. The event itself was supposed to take place some two days from now of course. June 30 the official handover date. That, of course, changed.

At 10:26 a.m. U.S. Administrator, now ex-U.S. Administrator Paul Bremer in a meeting with the -- Iraq's prime minister, the deputy prime minister as well as Iraq's new president and several other members of the Iraqi government, had the official ceremony in the Green Zone -- in the Green Zone, of course, they tightly controlled territory now that will be the location of the new U.S. embassy.

Christiane Amanpour is standing by in the Green Zone. We're going to go to her shortly. But no one really anticipated this happening at this early date. What the new Iraqi prime minister has said is that they wanted to assume power sooner rather than later. They said they were ready. They were ready to do this.

And the exact quote from the President Ghazi al-Yawar is, "This is a historic and happy day for us in Iraq. It is a day that all Iraqis have been looking forward to. This is the day that we take our country back into the international community. We want a free and democratic Iraq, and we want a country that is a source of peace and stability for the whole world." Let's go to Christiane Amanpour standing by live in the Green Zone. Christiane, quite a surprising morning.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was. And in terms of how it transpired, you know, we got a call, some journalists did, early in the morning, around 8:00 our time. "Come over to the convention center," they said. They didn't tell us what it was and we really didn't know until minutes before we were taken into this room.

We obviously tried to guess, but we didn't know until we were taken into this room, in the prime minister's office, which is part of this Green Zone, but not here in the building that I'm standing. And there we found already the dignitaries seated in a sort of L-shaped semi-circle. There was the deputy prime minister to the left as we looked, Barum Zala (ph). There was the head of the Iraqi Supreme Court. Next to him was the Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Paul Bremer -- Ambassador Bremer -- and then next to him was his deputy, the British Diplomat David Richmond. And next him was the Iraqi President Doctor Ghazi Yawar.

So then when everybody was assembled and there were a few cameras and the still photographers got all ready, they made some statements. And the first statement came from the president, Dr. Ghazi Yawar. And he said much as you've just reported, that this is a very happy and historic day and Iraq has been looking for this day, to take back their own country.

After that it was the Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's turn to also echo the same sentiments and to say that they had been waiting for this historic day, that they feel that they are capable and in control and that they're in control of the security situation. And, therefore, they feel happy that they have sovereignty today.

Then it was Ambassador Bremer's turn to make a few words. And he said that he was proud to be here today and it was his pleasure to be here today to formally hand over sovereignty to you. He was speaking to the prime minister and the president -- "to you and your government here today." He said that they have laid out their security vision, that he believed that they were ready, as he said, for sovereignty. And we think that we were happy to meet your request to have sovereignty transferred today.

They also talked obviously about the challenges ahead. And afterwards, after they had made those few opening statements, then they stood up and Paul Bremer had this blue bound document, which was the official document of the Transfer of Sovereignty. He had signed it earlier this morning in his office before coming to the prime minister's office. But the moment and -- the formal moment of transfers when he handed that document to the prime minister.

And we checked, as people like to know exact precise times -- we checked with General Kimmitt, who is the military spokesman here, and we asked him -- I did exactly what time it was. And by his military watch it was 10:26 local time. So, that is the time that will go down, at least as far as our historical record, when Iraq became a sovereign government.

Afterwards, there was claps and cheers -- well, not cheers but claps. I mean, it wasn't a very loud and rowdy room, but it was quite happy. It was relaxed, despite the obvious security measures. And afterwards we were told this that this would be Ambassador Bremer 's last public ceremony in this regard and that he in fact will be leaving later today.

And we were also told by coalition officials here that President Bush had written a letter that Ambassador Bremer handed to the new Iraqi prime minister, requesting an immediate resumption of formal diplomatic ties between the United States and Iraq. Those ties have been ruptured ever since the first Gulf War -- Anderson. COOPER: Christiane, certainly an amazing morning indeed. Let's talk a little bit about the timing of this. They moved it up. I mean, we had been told all along that the details were kind of sketchy. We were involved in various talks with coalition authority. But we did anticipate some sort of official handover ceremony on perhaps the 29th, at latest the 30th, but really no one anticipated it being this morning at this time.

How much do you think this was security concerns? And how much a concern? Because some of the coalition officials that I talked to said that they were concerned about having too formal a ceremony. They didn't want it to seem sort of paternalistic, patronizing with lots of photos of the U.S. handing over things to Iraqi officials, lowering or raising of flags. They wanted it sort of low key because they wanted to send a message that this is just giving power back to Iraq's rightful rulers -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Well, I think security is high up there and I think sensitivity is high up there as well. Obviously they want to do this in a way that complied both with the dignity of the Iraqi government but also, of course, because of security. You know, we've been told all along that this was never going to be Hong Kong, that this was not going to be the kind of fireworks and glitz and officials from all over the world coming to witness the transfer of Hong Kong back to China.

This was going to be Iraqi style and low key because of the environment in which we find ourselves. And that environment is one in which, as you know, the insurgents and terrorists have been targeting now very, very heavily, the new levers of Iraqi power and security. So, for sure that played a very, very big part. And we were all caught off guard.

We were told not too long ago to come over here. And we didn't know what for until we basically walked into the room. We sort of guessed once we were there. Certainly we weren't allowed to report it. There was an embargo for a period of time after the ceremony had been completed, and there was very, very heavy-handed security at the actual location as well.

So, this was really done in that context. And afterwards we were told by a coalition official that the prime minister of Iraq had basically made the case to the Americans, saying every day matters. We need to get our imprint on the new reality. We need for Iraqis to see that it is Iraqi government who is in charge and soon the Iraqi forces that will be deployed to be able to deal with this. We're already hearing, from what I can hear, and I don't know, but booms outside. And this contrasts, of course, with -- there's been some celebratory gunfire in Baghdad.

We checked with one of our colleagues here -- Iraqi colleagues -- called his own neighborhood and said that gunfire had been heard about an hour after this ceremony and that people, certainly in that neighborhood, were saying that, we're happy. This is a moment that we've been looking forward to. Iraq is ours again. And we hope that this will be a new beginning. So, I think we're going to see some -- as much celebration as is possible under these circumstances and perhaps some effort to interfere with that as well.

COOPER: Christiane, of course, Ambassador Paul Bremer leaving now after some 13, 14 months here in Iraq. He has had an extraordinarily difficult job of trying to balance all the different players here, trying to come up with some sort of workable framework for a government. Obviously, the way things have worked out is not the initial plan the United States or Ambassador Bremer had. We're going to be talking a lot about that later today.

Right now the diplomatic dance continues in Turkey in Istanbul, NATO leaders meeting. President -- United States President George W. Bush there, trying to convince many NATO leaders to get involved in the retraining of the new Iraqi army, the details of that still being worked out. Let's go to CNN's Robin Oakley, who is standing by live in Istanbul -- Robin.

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Anderson. Well, intriguingly, the news of the handover in Baghdad circulated here at the NATO Summit about an hour before it was officially confirmed in Baghdad. The first clue we had was from Hoshiyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, who was at a meeting with Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister. And he came out after that and indicated that there could be an acceleration of the handover. And CNN was able to reach officials, who then confirmed that would be the case.

We've not had any reaction, of course, from the leaders here at the NATO Summit because they were just going in for their first working session as the news of the handover was confirmed. But it has injected some much needed drama into a pretty predictable NATO Summit really because we had expected already that the NATO Summit was going to confirm that training help would be offered to the Iraqi government.

But now Mr. Zebari has come forward and told CNN that basically there are three demands from the new Iraqi government. They want a statement of political support from the NATO leaders here in Turkey. They want that training for the security forces in Iraq and they want help with equipment, too, particularly technical help to help with border crossings and things of that sort. So, it will help to concentrate the minds of the NATO leaders here in Turkey that the transfer of power has actually occurred today, Anderson.

COOPER: Robin, let's talk about -- a little bit about the training of security forces. There seems to be disagreement among some of the NATO players as to where that training is going to take place. The U.S. would like the training to take place inside Iraq.

Apparently some other countries saying they may be willing to get involved in France, Germany notably, but they would like that training to take place outside of Iraq. My understanding was the U.S. line along has been looked at. It's just that technically not all that feasible. Any development on that?

OAKLEY: That's what they're going to be arguing about in the sessions, Anderson, because France and Germany have been adamant from the beginning that they're not going to put any of their troops inside Iraq. So, they will be arguing for training to be conducted largely outside Iraq or certainly any part of it that they help with.

I think there is general commitment from the 26 NATO nations that they will give help with training. The arguments will go on about precisely how much training will be offered, which forces will be involved, how much of it will be done inside Iraq and how much will be done outside Iraq. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the NATO secretary general, has suggested that there will be training both inside and outside, but the details remain to be settled.

Certainly, though, there is a new impetus for these leaders who are all agreed that it is in the interests of all the NATO members and of the wider world for there to be peace and security in Iraq. So, it will help the climate of opinion here. And although there are divisions about this precise question of the training offered, there is none of the bitterness that there was between the U.S. and France and Germany, for example, in the run up to the actual Iraq War -- Anderson.

COOPER: Robin, let's talk a little bit also about forgiveness of debt. That is another source of some division among coalition countries and countries not involved in the coalition here in England -- in Iraq.

Obviously the United States pushing for a relief of U.S. -- of Iraqi debt, though a number of countries, France, among some others, not being all that eager at this point to forgive some of their loans. And they have some very extensive expensive loans. Is there any -- it's not really the forum for it at the NATO meeting, but has there been any talk about that, especially from Iraq's foreign minister?

OAKLEY: Well, there hasn't been talk about that directly here in Istanbul yet, Anderson. As you say, back at the G8 Summit it became apparent that some countries -- France and Russia particularly -- were not willing to forgive as much debt to Iraq as the U.S. would've liked. Britain is one of the countries that is pushing for significant forgiveness of debt. France and Russia, of course had particular oil contracts with the old Iraqi regime.

They are looking for commitments from the new regime when it is fully up and running. And we'll be looking for assurances about contracts, it seems, before they are willing to forgive more than, say, 50 percent of debt. So, that debt question certainly will go on. It will probably be discussed among some of the leaders here in the margins of this NATO Summit, but that's not something that will be formally on the agenda of the NATO Summit itself, Anderson.

COOPER: Robin, thanks very much. Robin Oakley reporting from Istanbul at the NATO Summit. He's saying three major factors on the agenda -- training of security forces, Iraq's foreign minister wanting NATO help, particularly NATO help inside Iraq, also statement of political support of the new government, very important for Iraq's foreign minister, as well as help with technical expertise, help with supplies, technical training. The three main things on the agenda, as reported by Robin Oakley of CNN in Istanbul, Turkey.

Right now let's go to Hala Gorani, who is standing by in London on this historic day. Our coverage from Baghdad will continue in a moment -- Hala.

HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Anderson. Thanks very much. And we have analysis for you on this breaking news story, an unexpected handover of power. Professor Robert Springborg, Director of the Middle East Institute at the University of London joins us now in this studio. What do you make of all this?

ROBERT SPRINGBORG, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Well, I think on the one hand they wanted to move the date up, lest there be some sort of paroxysm of violence at the last minute. And on the other hand, of course, they wanted to be able to present themselves at the NATO Summit we've just heard about in Istanbul as an independent Iraqi government, making the claim on the NATO resources for training and other assistance for security. So, there were push and pull factors, I think, that caused it to be moved up 48 hours.

GORANI: Also a series of legislative decrees that Paul Bremer wanted to pass through actually happened in time. And everything was done. All the administrative work seemed to be done. And so, therefore, there was no real reason to delay it any longer.

SPRINGBORG: Well, that's right. Over the course of the past month there have been almost 100 decrees issued by Paul Bremer, ranging across an enormous array of topics -- dealing with security, dealing with forthcoming elections, dealing with matters of radioactive materials, dealing with the future of Iraqi scientists involved in weapons of mass destruction and production, a whole series of things like that. And they had now tapered off in the last week. So, I think he thought that he had put all the bricks in place. And so, from his perspective it was ready to go and so why not move now?

GORANI: Now, Robert, the big question, of course, now that we're done with the -- not the ceremony, but at least the handover of power and this date, this landmark date, is now -- is today and tomorrow we will start the day one of the new history of Iraq. What happens next?

SPRINGBORG: Well, unfortunately, this step is not in the hands of the Iraqi government itself. It's really in the hands of the opposition. Are they going to intensify their attacks on Iraqis? Because if we look at the casualty figures, the casualty rates for Americans have been dropping while the casualties for Iraqis have been increasing.

And this presumably is a purposeful thing in part, and so the insurgency is targeting Iraqis. Might they increase this targeting and increase its effectiveness? If so, well then clearly the initiative is not in the hands of the government and it would, in a sense, have to hand back much of real power to the Americans to try to control it. And that's the danger, and that's what the insurgents, of course, would like to do.

GORANI: So, that's an interesting analysis. The more violence there is the less autonomy the interim government has.

SPRINGBORG: Basically so, because we all know that the security capacity of the Iraqi government is very limited, whether in terms of numbers or whether in terms of the capacity or whether in terms of the command and control structure of those forces. They are all very weak.

And so, in the face of what is a growing insurgency and the capacity of that insurgency, as we saw in Baquba last week, they actually went in, in the Tet style offensive and took over that town. Now, this is a new thing. So, the insurgents have been growing faster in their capacities than the Iraqis. So, this forces them, the Iraqi government, to rely on outside forces, most importantly the United States.

GORANI: And just as you were speaking there, Robert, we're seeing taped pictures of the actual handover ceremony, which occurred in the Green Zone a few hours ago at 10:26 a.m. Baghdad time officially. The interim Iraqi government became autonomous and sovereign. The question is, though, how much real influence will the United States have on this interim Iraqi government?

SPRINGBORG: Well, Bremer's decrees, numerous and specific, would in a sense like to guarantee a certain outcome over the course of this transition period, which is supposed to end a year-and-a-half from now. It's, in a sense, a transition to a transition. This government is to bring about elections to a transitional assembly, which in turn would then hold final elections a year-and-a-half from this date.

This is a very long period of time stretching out in which the Iraqis will probably bit by bit pull apart many of the things that the Americans have tried to do. Some of this -- these decrees they will find inoperable, others they won't like, and so on.

So, if things go according to Iraqi plan, gradually they will make this government more Iraqi, but that can only happen if the security situation is under control. And that's the conundrum because then they have to go back to the Americans, which gives the Americans leverage over them.

GORANI: We always go back to that security question. That's really the determining factor in terms of how successful the interim government is, how successful the U.S. management of post transition Iraq is, in terms of troops on the ground and security.

SPRINGBORG: Well, that's right. And that's why there was a fundamental change in the American approach over the past few months. As you will recall, this was to be an experiment in democracy. And during the first period, from April until November, the United States was concentrated on a bottom up strategy of building local government, which would in turn create national government.

In November of last year that was -- that approach was deemed to be too slow and possibly unworkable. And then as the security situation began to collapse in April of this year, a decision was made basically to bring in a strong man. And a strong man is the new prime minister. And so, now we're not talking democracy. We're talking security.

And all forces are being put at the disposal of that prime minister. And also a decree was passed by Bremer, which basically dissolves the militias which have been associated with various leaders who actually -- have been in the interim government and are in fact in this new government.

So, there's an attempt to consolidate power at the central level, put it under the hands of the Prime Minister and with him crush the opposition.

GORANI: You've anticipated my next question. How solid is this interim Iraqi government? You've studied the components and the members of this government. Can it withstand power struggles? Can it withstand crisis like a deteriorating security situation?

SPRINGBORG: Well, the strength it has is a close tie between the Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, and the United States government. They have worked together for year. Allawi was working with the CIA, so they know one another very well. That's one strength.

Another strength is Allawi himself was a Ba'ath, a Ba'ath activist. He has good ties with the Sunni Muslim community, although he is himself a Shiite. Moreover, Allawi is a man who is familiar in Arab capitals and in the security and intelligence services of those capitals. They're comfortable with this gentlemen. So the Arab position, which had been to hang back from the Iraqi transitional government is no longer that. They've been much forward leaning.

So Allawi has a lot of resources at his disposal. The trouble is that there is a reaction against him that he's getting too strong. Already there are fears of that by various members of his government as well as in Iraq as a whole. So on the one hand he needs to be strong to crush the insurgency. On the other hand, if he grows too strong, there will be opposition within the Iraqi body politic to him.

GORANI: So we're already perhaps seeing the ingredients for a power struggle, the kind of situation within a government that is not leading to harmony among its members?

SPRINGBORG: I think there'll be a lot of bumps in the road. There are going to be plenty in Iraq who would find that Allawi who clearly wants to concentrate power is not terribly concerned about Democratic niceties. So there will be some issues exactly of that sort as we go along.

GORANI: All right. Professor Robert Springborg, as always, many thanks for your analysis and your insight on this historic day for Iraq. It's day one of the new interim Iraqi government when Iraq has regained sovereignty from the Americans. We're going back to Anderson Cooper now live in Baghdad with more. Anderson.

COOPER: Thanks very much. A historic and a surprising day. Really no one anticipated this ceremony happening at this time on this day. The anticipation had been perhaps tomorrow, perhaps the day after that. The deadline, of course, was June 30 midnight.

But it did happen today, 10:26 a.m., a surprise to many. Ambassador Paul Bremer was there. Iraq's new Prime Minister, Iraq's President, the head of Iraq's supreme court, a number of other Iraqi officials as well as British officials. Christiane Amanpour was in the room when the handover happened. Let's check in with her. She is standing by in the green zone in Baghdad. Christiane?

AMANPOUR: Well, Anderson, it did happen in the Prime Minister's office, which inside the green zone, not too far from the convention center in which I'm standing now. And, in fact, the reason we're here now is because we expect within about a couple of hours a press conference by the Prime Minister. And we expect, because he indicated to me in that ceremony there, that he's going to lay out the precise security measures that they are going to take.

You know, a lot has been asked about just what it's going to take and how they're going to do it in terms of cracking down or to use their word, a "showdown" with the terrorists. That is what the new Iraqi government has said. And we are waiting to see what kind of measures they plan to impose. There has been a lot of talk even before this surprise handover this morning about martial law.

We don't believe that it will be full martial law because that is military rule, but we do believe that there'll be some kind of emergency law or emergency measures imposed, which could involve curfews, bans on public demonstrations and the like. But the full details we were told today by the Prime Minister will be announced publicly at some point today.

Now the reason I mention security is because even inside the handover ceremony that is what the Prime Minister mentioned. It is what Ambassador Paul Bremer mentioned, saying that he hoped and was confident that the new Iraqi government could meet the challenges, which obviously include security ahead.

We were told afterwards that one of the reasons this was moved up, apart from the obvious reason of trying to keep these insurgents and spoilers off their guard and off their footing, one of the reasons was because the Prime Minister said every day matters.

We need to put an Iraqi face on this now. We're ready. Most of the ministries have been -- or all now of the ministries have been made independent. In other words, they're not controlled by the U.S. administration anymore, although there are advisers still there.

But they feel that they had pretty much got to the point where if it was going to happen, it might as well happen today, two days from now. It really didn't make any practical difference in terms of whether they were ready or not. And they felt as a symbolic and as a -- and as an important statement of independence and sovereignty that should come sooner rather than later. So that is why partly this has been brought up.

In terms of elections, you've been talking a lot about democracy and elections, you know, the Prime Minister was quoted earlier this week as saying that the January transitional elections could be in jeopardy if the violence continued like it has been. He said that he wants to set the record straight, that they are still committed to those first transitional elections for a national assembly in January of 2005 -- Anderson.

COOPER: Christiane, let's talk about security a little bit. Also, Christiane, just so you know, we are receiving word that Ambassador Paul Bremer has actually flown out of -- out of the green zone on a helicopter -- a squad of helicopters, as he has been wont to travel in the last several days. So that just some new information there. Let's talk about security, though, because it is something you hear from Iraqis no matter where you go in this country, we want security, we need security.

I spoke with Ambassador Bremer just the other day who said, you know, it is one of the greatest failings, in a sense, of the Coalition Provisional Authority here that they really did not anticipate the security needs of this country. They did not anticipate the level of resistance that they would be getting at this point. Can the new government, Christiane, bring about security? You talked to Prime Minister Allawi yesterday. He sounds confident, but can he deliver?

AMANPOUR: Well, the bottom line is, and everybody pretty much admits it now, that there are not enough U.S. or other international forces here to do proper and robust peace enforcement. There simply aren't enough -- 140,000 or so for a population of some 25 million, and as you say, they did underestimate the tenacity and the strength of this insurgency.

So a top general, U.S. general, told us that what absolutely needs to happen is for the borders to be sealed. And then the rat lines, as he put it, the roots by which, the informal roots by which insurgents can come from borders or travel from various parts of the country to these centers where they can create mayhem, those need to be closed down. Then the safe houses need to be closed down. This is a massive job, and nobody's under any illusion about how big it is.

Now, can the Iraqis do it? Well, the Iraqi Prime Minister told us that they hope they can, that they're going to deploy their forces. I think that they're hoping that because they are Iraqi they might get more information, if you like, from Iraqis about who's harboring these people, trying to persuade Iraqi people to report, to basically be informers on these insurgents and to try to get the people involved in this crackdown on terrorism.

But it is a massive job, and I don't think anybody is under any illusions that the Iraqi forces as they stand now can do it. But obviously they want to put an Iraqi imcremata (ph) on this -- on this fight, if you like, to try to take away the magnet of sort of the big target that's on the back of every U.S. soldier here and try to make it an Iraqi crackdown on Iraqi and handful of foreign insurgents here.

So they're hoping that that is what's going to be able to happen. But I don't think anybody thinks that this is something that's going to miraculously happen anytime soon or that the insurgents are going to say OK, it's an Iraqi sovereign government, we lay down our arms because they have deliberately been targeting in the last month or so not just U.S. -- in fact, much fewer U.S. targets.

They've been targeting elements of the new Iraqi government whether it be ministers, whether it be ministries, whether it be police recruiting centers, police stations, army bases and the like. So this is -- and they've threatened over and over again that they won't stop until this becomes an Islamic state.

And that's kind of important because only over the last several months really has it gone from this nationalist insurgency which they've proclaimed to all we hear now is about Islam and bringing Iraq an Islamic government. So it's all -- it's changed flavor, this insurgency.

COOPER: And an ominous change, indeed. Let's also -- you know, Christiane, you and I have both spent time with General David Petraeus, U.S. military officer who is charged really with the U.S. effort to retrain all Iraqi security services, the Iraqi army particularly, Iraqi police, civil defense, border police and the like.

His job, it's a mammoth one. He's able to -- I mean his mission, in a sense, is to try to sort of open up the floodgates of supplies, of money, and of training to try to get these security services up to speed. Specifically he's been flooding them with equipment, with RPGs, with Kevlar vests. You spoke to him recently, as I have. It's a difficult mission he has.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Obviously one of the key and, frankly, incomprehensible failures was the failure to deliver all the gear that these new forces needed. We have seen forces training without radios, without helmets, without bullet proofs, without basic gear that you need as a security force whether you be police or army.

He's trying obviously now to get those flood gates open and get the supply lines open and first and foremost bring that gear. But then also, he has to sort of massage the way this training has been undertaken and sort of try to make it -- to imply and implicate all Iraqis into this, try to tell the Iraqi forces that they are now -- they are now part of one big family. It's not like you come to work in your civilian clothes, change your uniform and then go back home again.

No. You come, you spend weeks at base, you bond with your fellow trainees, you bond with your fellow conscripts or officers, and you do it in a way that makes you all one big force. And that has -- is an element of training that has not happened here according to the general up until now. So it's a question of redefining how you build this into a coherent force and how you get them up and ready and on the street.

But it is going to take a long time. Although there are tens of thousands of these people in the forces, only a fraction of them have received the proper training, so it's going to take a long time. And we've seen, whether it be in Bosnia or Kosovo or other places, this is not something that happens quickly or overnight. It's a massive effort.

COOPER: And, of course, the question is how long will the U.S. stay at that effort. The U.S. officials we have talked to say look, we are in this for the long haul. That, of course, we shall see. Christiane, now we're going to check back with you in just a moment. But I first just want to recap for the viewers who are just joining us now around the world.

A remarkable day here, a surprising day here in Baghdad. The handover of power to the new sovereign Iraqi government has occurred at 10:26 a.m. this morning. No one knew it was going to happen in advance, or very few people did, no one from the International Press Corps who have come here, flooded this place to cover this event.

The anticipation was that it would occur tomorrow or the day after, June 30 being the official deadline. But it has happened. It is a done deal. At this point, Ambassador Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator who now calls himself the ex-U.S. administrator handing over the documents first to Iraq's new Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, and then to Iraq's new President, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar.

And the ceremony very understated, very low key, coalition officials saying several days ago privately that they were concerned about having too formal a ceremony. This isn't going to be Hong Kong, talking about the handover of power in Hong Kong which occurred, a very formal, very ceremonial handover of power. This one, as you can see by the video, very low key, just a few journalists. Christiane Amanpour was present for it -- told really not what they were even going to. And yet this handover happened.

A couple of words were said by several people. The President, Ghazi al-Yawar, said this. "This is a historic and happy day for us in Iraq. It is a day that all Iraqis have been looking forward to. This is the day that we take our country back into the international community. We want a free and democratic Iraq, and we want a country that is a source of peace and stability for the whole world."

Prime Minister Allawi -- and when ask why he moved the handover date up to this date, to this morning, said because every day matters. Not only that, but, of course, some security concerns as well. There has been an escalation of violence here over the last several days, widely anticipated, really not a huge surprise. Coalition officials as well as Iraqi government officials have been saying for months now that it is likely that there will be an upsurge of violence in the days and the weeks before and even after the handover of power.

The question, of course, is what happens now? We are anticipating a press conference from Iraq's new Prime Minister, Allawi, just a little bit later on. It's going to be in the green zone, and that's where CNN's Christiane Amanpour is standing by. Christiane, what are you looking to hear from this press conference?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think apart from the formalities and introducing the new government and explaining what happened, I think he said to us in the ceremony that he's going to lay out precisely what he's going to do security-wise in terms of what emergency laws mean. He's told us over the last few days.

In fact, yesterday when I asked him what are you going to do, he said well, tough action means tough action. So you press him, and he said well, maybe curfews, maybe a ban on public demonstrations, public gatherings. So I think here we hope to hear some more details about what this new emergency state, this new emergency law might be. And he has said it's designed to protect the people. So that is what we are -- we think we're going to hear about -- Anderson.

COOPER: It will certainly be interesting what actually does come out of that press conference. There are so many questions at this point, security, of course, being number one on a lot of people's minds, people saying look, democracy is one thing. Yes, we may be on the road to democracy but without security it's a difficult thing to feel all that good about. We, Christiane, have not heard too much at this point from Iraqis on the street.

There were some reports of some celebratory gunfire in some neighborhoods. A CNN employee called in with that in his neighborhood. But as we look out now, the streets here are very quiet, a few U.S. military officers on patrol, some soldiers on patrol as well. The mood in the green zone, Christiane, what is it? I mean we were all sort of caught unawares by this handover this morning. The green zone is sort of a very well-controlled place. What is it like there?

AMANPOUR: Well, precisely it's a very well-controlled place, and there's not a whole lot of freedom of movement here. So it's not like we've got access to the pulse of the zone here. But clearly, the actual ceremony itself was one in which there was a great deal of -- you could feel the pleasure. You could feel it was a happy moment.

It is slightly guarded because of the situation, but there wasn't any tension, and there was smiles and some jokes and clapping after it took over, but I think probably one of relief, I would say. I think a lot of people are getting ready to go back. They've had 15 very, very difficult months. And to be very frank, a lot of what they have done over the last 15 months is essentially laying the groundwork.

You know, everything is in play right now. Democracy has not taken root. Security has not taken root. The economy has not taken root. While they've built some of the building blocks for it, it's really all -- it's really all in play. And we're going to wait and see what happens.

So many of what was meant to have been -- so much of what was meant to have been completed by the U.S. administrators here has not been completed. Jobs have been only half done. You know this handover was accelerated. They weren't meant to end the occupation until the first elections took part -- took place. They weren't meant to end it until a proper permanent constitution was drafted.

So none of this has happened. Why? Because the insurgency has made them think that it was more prudent to handover sovereignty earlier rather than later. And that may be more prudent, but it does beg the question what happens to all these democracy building, economic reconstruction programs that have only really had their foundations laid?

COOPER: Christiane, thanks very much. Let's go now to David Clinch, who is standing by at the CNN center in Atlanta. He is CNN's Senior International Editor. David, a remarkable morning here is Baghdad. Were you as surprised as the rest of us?

DAVID CLINCH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL EDITOR: Anderson, we were surprised here. As you can imagine, we're obviously relying on the people in Baghdad to tell us what's going to happen on any given day, and this was not expected. We have -- although we have a day when there is a surprise handover of power, we have all of our people in place, as you can see there in Baghdad, but also, so many other elements of the story that need to be brought in today.

We're obviously covering the NATO summit in Istanbul. We have our White House people there and President Bush there. And, of course, the immediate news of this early handover came from Istanbul. So we started with the information there and then went back to Baghdad. We're going to maintain coverage all day from Istanbul and also pull in so many of these people we rely on as experts from London and elsewhere to try and explain what's happening today.

We do know that this has happened two days early, but on the other hand, the issues remain the same. Security where you are in Baghdad is obviously the key issue. Just today we've had confirmation of a British soldier killed in Basra. We know that this is all about -- what's happened today is all about the law, that little blue book that Paul Bremer handed over to the Iraqis with those documents that they signed.

It's all in there. Now that may not change anything today. It may not change anything for quite some time. But in the long term this new Iraq, the interim government now and the elections in January are built on what's in that little blue book. I don't know if you saw, Anderson, but as that handover was happening, we got the tape from the pool where Christiane was. You could see Paul Bremer in his suit, but down underneath, if you looked, he was still wearing his military boots.

And now we hear that he's handed over that little blue book, the law -- the legal language in there handing over to this interim Iraqi government. Indeed, Paul Bremer still wearing those boots immediately gets onto a helicopter and leaves. It's now down to this interim Iraqi government. We've known for quite some time that they will not be allowed to make any truly long-term political decisions.

They are, of course, an interim government, no long-term decisions until after the elections in January. But there's a lot that falls under the umbrella of short-term political decisions. What will they do in terms of this word that we've been hearing, "martial law?" Now others in Baghdad have been making it clear to us that at the moment there is no immediate plan for martial law.

But obviously from a coverage point of view, from our point of view of trying to cover what's happening in Baghdad and beyond, the prospect of covering Iraq under martial law is quite a daunting one. So be watching very closely for that.

We're also watching for regional reaction. We know that the NATO and the NATO summit, now immediately those NATO leaders there who've been saying well, we'll let you know what we're going to do after there's an Iraqi government, they'll have some decisions to make today. There is now an Iraqi government.

We're also going to be watching in the Arab countries surrounding Iraqi who've been very conscious of the fact that Iraq is now a source of instability and to a certain degree terrorism in the region, they will be watching very closely. And we'll be hearing today from that Iraqi government. So we have our Arab experts watching for regional reaction there. And then, obviously, beyond that long term, Iraq has been a heavy, heavy item, of course, on the agenda politically here in the United States.

We'll be switching immediately, of course, to reaction here in the U.S. where despite the fact that Iraq has now an interim government, despite the fact that this handover has happened two days early, the United States is still there, those troops, 130,000-plus troops are still there, one of them we now know a hostage. So that issue, the political and domestic issue here in the United States still very important for us. So yes, Anderson, a big surprise for us. But we do have everything in place, and we'll be trying to cover it as much as possible from all of those angles.

COOPER: David Clinch standing by in Atlanta. A lot to cover today. Certainly on this historic day a lot of questions remain unanswered. Just a quick quote for you. I spoke with Ambassador Paul Bremer several days ago. We traveled up north together on really his farewell tour of Kurdish areas in the north.

I asked him what would be going through his mind on that final chopper ride, a man who has traveled by Blackhawk helicopters for most of his 13 months here now, in a convoy of them for, of course, very tight security reasons. I ask him what be -- what would he be thinking, what would be going through his mind? And he said this.

"I suppose it would be a combination of joy and sorrow, as you can expect it would be. I've put a lot in here over the last 13 months. I've come to like this country. I have a lot of friends here, and I will miss them. On the other hand looking -- I have not seen my family for six months, and I took two days off in 13 months, so I'm looking forward for some rest."

No doubt he will get some of that rest in the days and the weeks to come. Ambassador Paul Bremer, now the ex-U.S. administrator here in Iraq as Iraq's new sovereign government took power early this morning. Let's go back to the CNN center in London and Hala Gorani, who is standing by there. We'll check back in with you -- Hala.

GORANI: All right. To you a bit later, Anderson Cooper, live in Baghdad. Let's take a look now at what might happen next now. Robert Springborg, Director of the Middle East Institute at the University of London, joins us again.

So, we have a situation here where the interim Iraqi government is having to take steps like perhaps curfews, even martial law was discussed, to -- for its authority to be solidified, to materialize on the ground. But some say that might be the wrong message to send out on day one of the new government. SPRINGBORG: Well, he's caught -- that is, Prime Minister Allawi is caught in a bit of dilemma. On the one hand, he's got to deal with the insurgency, and on the other hand, he's got to build a political base that includes all key elements of the Iraqi body politic.

And to some extent, these are contradiction because if he consolidates power enough for the security control operation that he's going to be directing, then he's going to be stepping on the toes of a lot of those who are already in the government and who have their own militias and their own power structures and which will be -- those structures will be infringed by the concentration of power that Allawi himself sees that he needs. So there is a paradox in this situation, and he's going to need very good political skills indeed to sort of square the circle here.

GORANI: Now, the United States and the coalition forces, in order to pacify certain cities like Fallujah and other cities in the south, have given control of those cities to local strongmen, if you will. So what will we have then? Will we have a centralized government with a centralized authority, or will we have more of a federal setup with certain cities having at the top of the power structure there local sort of militiamen?

SPRINGBORG: Well, I think the local militiamen scenario was the one the Americans had fallen back upon in April and May as things were running out of control. But clearly there's been a reaction against that within American circles and by Prime Minister Allawi himself who would obviously prefer to consolidate power in his own hand.

So the way it is running now is to basically incorporate those local militias into the newly emerging national security structures whether the army, the police force, the border patrol and so on to build national -- build a national apparatus. And one of the reasons the Americans were frightened of that is they didn't really at the outset want to reconstruct a strong Iraq with a strong military. They -- the original target for the military, as I recall, was only 25,000 troops. They really didn't want a strong Iraq.

And now, confronted with the challenge to the very integrity of Iraq, there really seems to be no choice but to once again have a significant security and military capacity in Iraq. And I think the Americans finally bit the bullet on that and said OK, it's coming back, better to have that than the alternative.

GORANI: Is it realistic to have elections at the end of January 2005 at the latest in Iraq? The Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told another television network that perhaps he was suggesting that that deadline was a bit flexible.

SPRINGBORG: Well, his timing on that statement, even before he had become, in fact, the Prime Minister of this new Iraqi government, was ill advised. It looked as if as really the effective head of that government, he didn't feel that he was going to be bound by the arrangements that have brought that government into being.

Now, it's also fair to say that he then in the face of criticism to his statement withdrew it and said oh no, we will stick to the deadline, the 31st of January of next year. But it seemed to send the message that he was more concerned with his power and authority than probably with the sort of quasi-constitutional underpinnings for it.

GORANI: Now on this, the first day of a sovereign Iraqi government -- a sovereign interim Iraqi government, do you think that in a year's time we'll look back and see an Iraqi -- a country, Iraq, that is the first true democracy in the Middle East? Do you think that's possible?

SPRINGBORG: I don't think in that period of time it's possible, no. I think that if we look a year from now at what will have occurred in the last 12 months and if we see that this insurgency has been brought under control, we'll thank our lucky stars that that will have occurred. It's highly unlikely that an insurgency is going to be brought under control at the same time a democracy is being built. Indeed, there are some contradictions within those two processes.

So, a year from now would give us enough time hopefully to begin to see the emergence of a new constitutional document of the politically forces necessary to bring that document into being and the implementation of it and to see that the final elections which, in fact, are a year-and-a-half from now, are going to be on track.

If we see all of that, in other words, the beginnings of the -- of the rules of the game emerging for a democratic political game, that will have been enough. But to bring this insurgency under control in a year is already a pretty big undertaking.

GORANI: So it's really a question of an incremental evolution into a kind of scenario where a budding democracy might see the light of day in Iraq?

SPRINGBORG: Well, it's possible, but again, we come back to the fact that power is now being concentrated in Baghdad, and it's being concentrated onto the hands of one particular person. This was not the original scenario. Now, what sort of counterbalances are going to be established? What are the powers going to be of the legislature?

What about an independent judiciary? What about this supreme election committee that's been formed that has the power to prevent anyone from offering their candidacy if they deem it inappropriate? So there are lots of questions here about how this will all emerge. And what we do know is in most post-conflict situations in the Middle East in the past, single strong men have emerged to control events, not democracies.

It would be a first in the Middle East, in -- Lebanon notwithstanding. Because, in fact, in Lebanon, there's a strong government standing behind the Lebanese government. So with that one quasi-exception, all the rest of post-conflict situations have seen strong men emerge.

GORANI: Professor Robert Springborg, many thanks. We can go back to Anderson Cooper now in Baghdad -- Anderson. COOPER: Thanks very much, Hala. Events moving fast on the ground here as the handover of power has already occurred, a number of developments we are following at this moment. Right now, let's go to CNN's Robin Oakley, who is standing by in Istanbul in Turkey at that NATO summit where President George W. Bush is trying to convince NATO leaders to get involved in the retraining of Iraq's new army, in particular, retraining them here within the borders of the newly sovereign Iraq.

Good morning, Robin.

OAKLEY: Good morning, Anderson. And it's certainly going to help President Bush in his efforts to persuade some of the other leaders to back a training initiative to help the Iraqi security forces under the new government there. This had looked a rather predictable, humdrum NATO summit in some ways. And the news of the earlier handover has injected some drama into the proceedings, already overshadowed, of course, to some extent by the taking of further hostages in Iraq, including three Turkish citizens. But President Bush will find willing allies at this NATO Summit ready to help with training in Iraq. The only question is whether the training will be conducted inside Iraq or outside.

Countries like France and Germany, who've argued all along that they were not willing to put troops into Iraq and that NATO wasn't the appropriate alliance, as an alliance to help out in Iraq will stick with that opinion. And it seems likely that any participation by them in the trading initiative will be in their own countries.

Other countries are signifying their willingness to conduct the training within Iraq, and that sort of detail is what they've got to sort out in their current session. We've not had any of the leaders emerge from the summit session yet to discuss the question of the earlier handover, but I understand President Bush was told about it yesterday and -- but essentially the call lay with Ayad Allawi, the Iraqi Prime Minister. It was up to him to name the moment when he felt confident of the takeover -- Anderson.

COOPER: Now, Iraq's foreign minister is at the NATO Summit. I know he met with coalition leaders yesterday. Any sense of what the tenor, the tone of those discussions was and how things will change now that he is a representative of an officially sovereign government?

OAKLEY: Well, Hoshiyar Zebari, I think is conscious of the added clout that he will now have here and that his government will have here as a result now of being the sovereign authority in Iraq. Mr. Zebari did spell out to CNN today the three aims that they have.

First of all, they want help with the training of security forces. Secondly, they want help with equipment -- particularly cross-border detection equipment, things of that kind. And also, they want a statement of political support from this NATO Summit. And perhaps there will be some difficulty among the NATO heads really in agreeing the precise wording of that statement. That is where their past differences over the Iraq war may surface rather more than in other ways. But there's no doubt of the collective spirit on this occasion, Anderson, that all these 26 NATO heads of government are agreed that it is in the interests of NATO as an alliance and of the wider world that there should be peace and security in Iraq. They all appreciate they've got to make some kind of effort to help in that process. But details, well, that's still to be sorted out -- Anderson.

COOPER: You mentioned the cross-border equipment as one of the things that Iraq's foreign minister is wanting from NATO countries. Of course, the borders here in Iraq, an enormous problem for a sovereign nation to not have full control of their borders, not be able to prevent people and control the flow of people and goods across the borders is a major issue.

I spoke with one U.S. General the other day who said, "Look, the borders of Iraq are as porous a sieve," and that, of course, is adding to the problems of insurgency that have been going on here -- now here and escalating here in the days before the handover.

What -- do you have any sense of what other kinds of equipment the Iraq foreign minister is looking for? Are they looking for technical advisers to come in as well, or is it more equipment -- money for them to buy a new equipment? I was in an Iraqi hospital just the other day and a lot of the medical equipment there dated back to the early 1970s. I can only imagine what the equipment is at the border and elsewhere.

OAKLEY: Well, Hoshiyar Zebari has not been too specific on this, Anderson. He has talked of the need for more arms and for more equipment, but apart from talking about equipment that will help in the technological sense maintain those porous borders you're talking of, he hasn't really spelled things out in any detail.

I suspect as the discussions go on here at the summit -- which, after all, has only been going for an hour or so this morning -- we will get more knowledge of the detail of the Iraqi requests. But initially, they where couched in fairly general terms. Of course, they were scaling down of the initial hopes of the coalition partners, and President George Bush after the G8 Summit made clear that France and Germany would oppose the sending of troops.

Originally, the hope was that NATO was going to supply actual ground troops to help with the counter insurgency, but once that hope disappeared, the focus switched to training. And the question of equipment has really only emerged in the last couple of days. So, we'll have to wait and see precisely what equipment the Iraqi's are looking for. We haven't been given any kind of shopping list just yet, Anderson.

COOPER: Robin, as you look ahead to the hours and the day ahead, you said that there is a meeting going on right now. How involved is Iraq's Foreign Minister Zebari in these meetings? Is he involved in all the meetings? What sort of access does he have to the NATO leaders?

OAKLEY: Now, his access will be in bilateral meetings with the leaders who are gathered here for the NATO sessions. So far as I know, he has not been invited to directly participate in the NATO session. It would be unusual if he were to be, given that kind of invitation.

COOPER: Robin Oakley, standing by in Istanbul, Turkey. Robin, thanks very much. We'll come back to you later as this day -- a very busy day, indeed, both in Turkey where NATO leaders are meeting and here in Iraq. A day really no one expected when they woke up this morning that it would be quite like this.

At 10:26, the official ceremony, the handover power from U.S. administrator Paul Bremer -- now ex-administrator Paul Bremer -- and Iraq's prime minister receiving the documents and Iraq's new president receiving the documents. The power is now in their hands; what they will do with it, it remains to be seen.

We are anticipating a press conference sometime in the next several hours from Iraq's new Prime Minister Allawi, at which we anticipate him spelling out in some detail what he plans to do to try to bring some sort of order, security not only to here in Baghdad but also throughout Iraqi.

They are struggling with a number of factors. They -- the Iraqi security services -- the police, the new army, the border police, other security services -- very poorly trained, very poorly manned, who as administrator Paul Bremer cited it as one of the mistakes the U.S. has made here: going for numbers security personnel as opposed to really going for quality leadership. That is something the U.S. is hoping to rectify now.

General David Petraeus here is tasked with a very important mission: trying to restock, re-supply, and retrain Iraqi security services. They will be in the front lines from now on fighting this war against insurgents and also foreign fighters who have come into Iraq.

We're going to take a short break. CNN's live coverage of the handover of power continues in a moment.



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