BAGHDAD, Iraq – While acknowledging that the situation in Iraq remains far from ideal, the U.S. civilian administrator said Monday that occupying forces have done a great deal to re-establish stability and will be pushing to help the nation rebuild its economy.
"We have established control over the country of Iraq," L. Paul Bremer (search) told reporters. "We've turned water and power on. We're working hard to improve the basic services nationwide."
He said the U.N. Security Council's (search) decision last week to lift 13 years of economic sanctions imposed against Saddam Hussein's regime had "brought Iraq out of the darkness of international isolation."
But, Bremer said, "There is still a lot to do, there's no doubt."
More than seven weeks after Saddam was ousted from power by American forces, Baghdad (search) remains a deeply troubled city.
While security appears to have improved significantly over the past two weeks, most residents refuse to leave home after dark, when the streets of the city are given over to criminals and gunfire can regularly be heard. Despite Bremer's pronouncement, power outages are common in the capital.
Basic services have returned in Iraq's other major cites, which Bremer said are generally faring better than Baghdad.
Bremer announced that a program, funded by Iraq's central bank and a number of private banks, would supply credit to encourage exports to Iraq in coming weeks.
"A free economy and a free people go hand in hand," Bremer said. "Encouraging robust trade between Iraq and the rest of the world will be a key element of our strategy."
Bremer also said $250 million had been found in Iraq's central bank, inside an underground vault that had been flooded and submerged in water until Sunday.
Bremer, a former State Department (search) anti-terrorism official, took over the civilian operation in Iraq on May 12. He replaced retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner (search), who had drawn criticism for moving too slowly in American efforts to make Baghdad a safe place to live and stem the tide of looting and lawlessness.