Umm Qasr, Iraq; 15 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The British military today formally handed control over the port city of Umm Qasr to an Iraqi town council. British commander Lieutenant Colonel Peter Jones transferred the civil authority over the city to a council of Iraqis at a ceremony held at British forces headquarters.
"It is going to be, you know, a handover [of the civil authority over Umm Qasr from the British military to the Iraqi interim city council]. There is no key, there is no ceremony, etc. It is just the fact that they are going to now be in charge of their own destiny, which is probably the first time in 35 years or longer that they have had the ability to operate the town by themselves," Jones said.
The council members are volunteers. They include local professionals and clerics. Elections are to he held within a week to choose a new council. British troops will remain, however, in charge of security around the town.