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New U.S. administrator in Baghdad

President Bush sits with Paul Bremer at the White House on May 6.
President Bush sits with Paul Bremer at the White House on May 6.

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SPECIAL REPORT
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The new U.S. civil administrator for Iraq arrived Monday in Baghdad, where he will assume the daunting task of bringing order and security to the war-torn nation.

L. Paul Bremer III, a former U.S. ambassador and counterterrorism specialist for the State Department, will take over the leadership post from retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner.

Bush administration officials said the switch had been planned "all along." As security improved, the coalition wanted to put a diplomat into the top spot, officials said.

But British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw gave a different impression.

Violence and lawlessness still plague much of the country, he said, and while conditions are improving in the south, "in other areas, including Baghdad, the situation is still unsatisfactory."

The U.S.-led Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), which the civil administrator oversees, has produced results that are "not as good as we would have hoped," Straw told the House of Commons. "I therefore welcome the appointment of [Bremer]. ... He will bring fresh impetus to ORHA's efforts."

Bremer acknowledged that a "difficult task" lies ahead. "We are trying to rebuild a country that has been under a despot for 30 years," he said Monday.

Garner has done an "outstanding job," Bremer added. "We intend to have an effective, efficient, and well organized handover."

Garner plans to stay in Iraq for several weeks before returning to Washington, a senior defense official said.

Also, the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. interim administration is leaving Iraq immediately, senior U.S. officials said over the weekend.

Barbara Bodine, the central Iraq coordinator, had been on the job in Baghdad for less than a month.

She will take another job with the State Department in Washington, officials said.

A State Department official said Bodine had committed to working in Iraq only "for a couple of months."

U.S. officials did not link the departures of Bodine and Garner to recent criticisms of the interim administration's performance.

A defense official acknowledged, however, that Garner's status as a retired U.S. military officer had created a perception that the U.S. military was controlling the effort to create an Iraqi government.

Also, the official said, there has been tension between the State Department and the Pentagon over what to do in Iraq and Bremer "could bridge that gap."

Other administration sources told CNN they hope Bremer, with 23 years of diplomatic service, will be more politically astute than Garner, who was criticized for not traveling immediately to Baghdad as the war effort was winding down and civilian needs were growing.

Bremer sought to send a clear message to Iraqis Monday. "The coalition forces did not come to colonize Iraq," he said. "They came to overthrow a despotic regime. That's what we've done and now it is our turn to try and help the Iraqi people regain control of their own destiny. To help the Iraqi society rebuild on the basis of individual liberties, respect for the rule of law and respect for each other -- that's our job now."

The United States wants to turn control over to the Iraqi people "as quickly as we can efficiently do it," he added.


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