UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) welcomed Iraq "back into the family of independent and sovereign nations" Monday and called on all Iraqis to assist the new, interim government.
The U.N. Security Council (search) also welcomed the handover of power and the official end of the American and British occupation and reaffirmed "the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq."
Annan's top adviser on Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi (search), said the "former occupying powers" and the new government must now demonstrate to the Iraqi people that the 150,000 foreign troops in the country are there to support the government in maintaining security — and that they will be leaving.
"We are all keeping our fingers crossed," said Brahimi, who helped put together the new government.
"We hope that this is going to be a true beginning and those who are opposing occupation will now consider that opposing occupation is not necessary anymore and that both sides — the government and these people — will try and find a common ground to build Iraq," he told reporters at U.N. headquarters.
Annan, who had just arrived in Dubai at the start of a three-week trip to the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe, said in a statement issued by his office that the United Nations will "do everything possible, as circumstances permit, to help the Iraqi people" in the difficult process of returning to normalcy.
"Today, the secretary-general welcomes the state of Iraq back into the family of independent and sovereign nations," the statement said.
"He calls upon all Iraqis to come together in a spirit of national unity and reconciliation, through a process of open dialogue and consensus-building, to lay down secure foundations for a new Iraq."
The Security Council called on all Iraqis to fully and "peaceably" implement the political timetable it endorsed earlier this month. That plan includes elections by Jan. 31.
Council members urged all countries and regional and international organizations to support the interim government during the political transition "and in its efforts to bring economic reconstruction, peace, unity and stability to Iraq."
"The members of the council condemn, in the strongest terms, the continued violence in Iraq, which should not be allowed to disrupt Iraq's political and economic transition," the council said in a statement read by the current president, Philippines Ambassador Lauro Baja.
Whether it does or not remains to be seen.
Yahya Mahmassani, the Arab League's ambassador to the United Nations, had warned before the war that it would open "a Pandora's Box." He said Monday that "the situation unfortunately has gone from bad to worse."
"Security is the biggest challenge, the biggest problem," he said. "Security should be achieved if possible with conciliation and consensus — and try to get all the Iraqis together."
"We hope that Iraq will remain united, independent, sovereign, master of its own decisions and that there will be no further violence. But, of course, we have to wait and see ... the reaction of the Iraqi people to the government," Mahmassani said.