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U.S. Overseer Holds Ceremony Without Notice, and Departs

The American-led military occupation of this restive land formally ended today 15 months after Saddam Hussein was swept from power, with Iraq’s new leaders taking over in a surprise ceremony that came two days ahead of schedule. The early transfer was designed to foil attacks by guerrilla insurgents whom American forces are still struggling to vanquish. L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator who arrived last May to a country in flames, restored Iraqi sovereignty in a simple meeting called on no public notice, deep inside the heavily fortified American occupation headquarters area known as the Green Zone. American aides and Iraqi officials, who were bracing for a wave of terrorist attacks on Wednesday, the date initially set for the transfer, said they had moved up the ceremony, and held it in near total secrecy, in order to foil any terrorist plots that might be in the works. Standing amid an array of gilded furniture left behind by Mr. Hussein, Mr. Bremer handed Ayad Allawi, the new Iraqi prime minister, a leather-encased note from President Bush, indicating that the American-led military occupation had formally ended. The Coalition Provisional Authority, the civilian administration that Mr. Bremer led, was dissolved.Full Story

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