Written by Stu B
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Topics: Iraq, Public

Monday, 28 June 2004

The US has formally handed back the keys to the public toilets in Iraq, two days ahead of schedule.

At a low-key ceremony in Baghdad, US administrator Paul Bremer gave a new set of Yale keys to an Iraqi janitor. He later left the country heavily disguised.

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who was busting, took part in the ceremony in the heavily-guarded Green Zone, said it was "a historic day".

But the handover will mean little to ordinary Iraqis.
Our correspondent says it is not clear how real the transfer of toilets will seem to the many Iraqis whose backing is needed to defeat graffiti and floaters.

Security crucial to success

During the ceremony, Mr Bremer, describing himself as "ex-administrator of the Coalition Provisional Khazi", said the US-led coalition had come to liberate Iraq - as anyone who saw the mess left by Saddam Hussein could attest.

"I leave these toilets confident in the future and confident in the ability of the authorities to keep them stocked with disinfectant cubes and shiny toilet paper" he said.

Coalition officials later said Mr Bremer had left Iraq by smuggling himself in one of the many services Portaloos that have been until now used in the streets of Baghdad but are now being removed.

Mr Allawi said: "This is a historic day, a happy day, a day that all Iraqis have been looking forward to."
He said the Iraqi government was committed to holding elections in January 2005, despite earlier suggestions that the poll might be delayed if insurgents constantly blocked up the toilets with loo roll, as they have threatened.

'Challenge'

The surprise move to bring forward the handover of sovereignty of the bogs was first disclosed by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, speaking after talks with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair at a Nato summit in Istanbul.

Mr Zebari told journalists that the transfer of toilets was taking place early and welcomed the commitment of NATO countries to help train the Iraqi division of Dynorod struggling to flush down particularly difficult stools.

"We are very pleased here, we are confident and we are ready to drop our guts into our own facilities once more - even before 30 June," he said.

"I believe today we will challenge those elements in Iraq - the terrorists, the criminals, the Saddamists, the anti-democratic forces, those with irritable bowel syndrome and the dysenteric - by bringing the date of the handover of these public conveniences even before 30 June, as a sign that we are ready for the job or Jobs, be they number ones or twos."

Our political editor says the early transfer of bogs was originally due to be announced in Baghdad - and that Mr Zebari visibly startled Mr Blair by publicly undoing his pants.

Another correspondent in Istanbul says it appears that the date was brought forward to pre-empt attacks by of food poisoning following the announcement of the first KFC opening in Baghdad next week.

He says recent outbreaks of botulism in Iraq in the run-up to the transfer of the ablutions has forced the hand of the authorities
.
Security fears

The Iraqi foreign minister's disclosure came as Nato leaders were arriving for the summit in Istanbul, where they later endorsed a plan to help train Iraqi janitory forces.

The move followed an urgent request from interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to pop over and have a poo.

It is not yet clear when the training operation will begin, nor how many personnel will be involved.
Nato's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Schetter says the alliance must take action to ensure fragrance is maintained in the Iraq Public
Conveniences after the handover.

"There is a broad agreement that a fresh pine fragrance is in the interest of all allies," he said "although we did consider the stronger Jayes Fluid.

The 26-member alliance also looks likely to agree to the expansion of its operations in Afghanistan were local tribal leaders currently have to poo into open turrets of old soviets tanks.

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