WASHINGTON – President Bush pledged Friday that the U.S.-led coalition will transfer "complete and full sovereignty" to a caretaker government in Iraq, responding to doubts that Washington will yield total control to the new leaders.
Bush expressed his commitment in a telephone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin (search) and then in a Rose Garden appearance with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (search), a steadfast U.S. ally in military operations in Iraq. Bush said Rasmussen pressed him about the U.S. promise.
One of the unanswered questions is the extent of Iraqi control over the roughly 135,000 U.S. troops who will remain in Iraq after the transfer of political power on June 30. The White House says the soldiers will remain under the command of an American general and will have primary responsibility for Iraq's security.
Bush said he told Rasmussen that "our government and our coalition will transfer full sovereignty - complete and full sovereignty" to an Iraqi government that will be picked by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (search), who has led the process for drawing up the new government.
Referring to Rasmussen, Bush said, "He said, "Do you mean full sovereignty?'"
"I said I mean full sovereignty," Bush replied.
Bush said he also spoke with Putin about Iraq's future. "I told him that we would come up with an arrangement that would enable us to help the Iraqi people secure their country, so that their country can move towards elections," Bush said.
Denmark has some 500 troops in Iraq and Rasmussen said he would keep them there.
"The Danish troops will stay in Iraq and stay and finish our job," he said. Rasmussen said there has been "a lot of negative news from Iraq" and what is needed now is positive news.
"We need a transfer of full sovereignty to an Iraqi government, an Iraqi government which will be provided at request from this new Iraqi government," he said. "Our troops will stay in Iraq as long as the Iraqi government decides."
He said he talked with Bush about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers and was assured that the cases will be fully investigated and that people responsible will be held accountable. "I welcome that the necessary steps will be taken to make sure that nothing like this will happen in the future," he said.
Before speaking with Bush, Putin said earlier Friday in Moscow that the U.N. resolution to turn over authority to a new Iraqi interim government must clearly state what authority is being transferred.
"This resolution will be effective only if it allows the Iraqi people to take its fate into its own hands and creates mechanisms for the rebirth of real Iraqi sovereignty," Putin said earlier at a joint news conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (search).
Putin told reporters the resolution should accelerate the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people, adding that Russia's U.N. delegation would try to achieve "just such a document."
After the handover, the United States will continue to be responsible for security in Iraq. The U.S.-British resolution would authorize American-led international forces to take "all necessary measures" to maintain security and prevent terrorism, while no mention is made of the Iraqi army - except the need for training.
Asked whether Bush addressed any of Putin's specific concerns on the issue of sovereignty, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, "I think everybody recognizes that putting forth a draft resolution is the beginning of the process."
"Everybody recognizes there will be some refinements and adjustments along the way," he said.