Already a Sovereign in Iraq

Iraq has nearly three weeks to go before sovereignty, but its new prime minister is already acting like a sovereign. Since his appointment June 1, Iyad Allawi has defused two explosive issues: the status of US-led forces in Iraq, and the rights of Iraq's Kurdish minority.

Mr. Allawi ably handled the forces question through a letter to the UN Security Council that overcame French concerns about Iraqi-US military coordination. That helped pave the way for Tuesday's unanimous approval of a UN resolution on Iraqi sovereignty.

He then dealt deftly with the Kurds by assuring them that his government would recognize their rights as laid out in an interim constitution approved by the previous government.

Iraqi Shiites, who represent the majority suppressed under Saddam Hussein, had denounced that constitution, arguing that it granted the Kurds too much veto power over a future, permanent constitution. In response, the Kurds threatened to boycott participation in Allawi's new government, and even to secede. Wisely, Shiite leaders were consulted before Allawi backed the interim constitution.

Nothing threatens Iraq's future more than its potential breakup or civil war. By backing the interim constitution, Allawi has avoided that danger - for now.

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