by MONITOR

THE regime change in the American and British coalition administration in Iraq has produced an immediate U–turn in policy. After less than a week in the job Paul Bremer, who has replaced former general Jay Garner, and John Sawers, Britain's former Ambassador in Egypt who is now Mr Blair's man on the ground, have abandoned the plans announced earlier for creating a provisional government within a matter of weeks. Instead they have sensibly decided that the “interim authority” which they represent should remain in existence for as long as necessary. This welcome decision has been taken for three reasons: first, that the restoration of security and public services is a higher priority for the majority of Iraqi people than a new government; second, that Iraqi political forces have not yet established themselves and a hurriedly assembled government would probably have been dominated by former exiled Iraqis, most of whom have been out of the country for decades; third, a more measured approach to the transition to a democratic government may encourage acceptance in the UN's Security Council of the new UK/US resolution, in particular its provisions for ending the sanctions which prevent the generation of income for reconstruction through the sale of Iraq's oil. The shift in policy is a defeat for the Pentagon and Congress in Washington and responds to concerns expressed by Britain about the approach being taken by General Garner and the US military. Both Mr Bremer and Mr Sawers are experienced diplomats and they now occupy the high ground. However, the change will almost certainly mean that Britain and the United States have to remain in Iraq for much longer than they originally intended.