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U.N. Endorses Iraq Sovereignty Transfer

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council gave resounding approval Tuesday to a resolution endorsing the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq's new government by the end of June. President Bush said the measure will set the stage for democracy in Iraq and be a "catalyst for change" in the Middle East.

The unanimous 15-0 vote came after a last-minute compromise allowed France and Germany to drop their objections to the U.S.-British resolution, which underwent four revisions over weeks of tough negotiations. Diplomats on the council, which was deeply divided over the war, welcomed the Americans' flexibility.

The compromise gives Iraqi leaders control over the activities of their own fledgling security forces and a say on "sensitive offensive operations" by the U.S.-led multinational force - such as the controversial siege of Fallujah. But the measure stops short of granting the Iraqis a veto over major U.S.-led military operations.

The resolution spells out the powers and the limitations of the new interim Iraqi government that will assume power on June 30. It authorizes the multinational force to remain in Iraq to help ensure security but gives the Iraqi government the right to ask the force to leave at any time.

Bush claimed victory before the vote, telling reporters at the Group of Eight summit in Sea Island, Ga., that a unanimous approval would tell the world that the council nations "are interested in working together to make sure Iraq is free, peaceful and democratic."

"These nations understand that a free Iraq will serve as a catalyst for change in the broader Middle East, which is an important part of winning the war on terror," Bush said.

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