-- On Wednesday the sovereignty of Iraq will be restored, and the Iraqi people will take their first major steps toward a free and prosperous future, after more than three decades of tyrannical rule, repression, wars and sanctions. This will be an important milestone for Iraq, the region and indeed the whole world, endorsed by the unanimous approval of the U.N. Security Council in Resolution 1546 earlier this month. As Iraqis, we thank the coalition for the sacrifices made by its soldiers and its people for the liberation and rebuilding of Iraq, and for the contributions by all the countries, international organizations and nongovernmental organizations that have braved the risks to help Iraq in its time of need. We hope for the continued support of the global community, as we Iraqis take the crucial steps in assuming responsibility for our own future.

The members of my recently named interim government are among the brightest and most capable of Iraqi men and women, representing our unique mix of ethnic, religious, geographical and political perspectives, all united in a common patriotic purpose. Our government's policies will be based on four interrelated objectives.

First and foremost, our priority is to establish security, without which little other progress can be made in the long-overdue reconstruction of the country. This requires the rapid rebuilding of Iraq's key institutions for law enforcement, including the army, police, border control and intelligence services. The process is already underway, with a multifaceted, integrated plan that encompasses establishment of five divisions in the new Iraqi Army, unifying the command-and-control structure of the various security forces, building counterterrorism intelligence capabilities, establishing a ministerial national security council, and assembling a framework for the disbanding of militias and their reintegration into the nation's security forces.

Throughout this process the government will make a clear distinction between those Iraqis who have acted against the occupation out of a sense of desperation and those foreign terrorist fundamentalists and criminals whose sole objective is to kill and maim innocent people and to see Iraq fail. Our objective will be to reach out to the former group in a national reconciliation effort and invite them to join us in a fresh start to build our country's future together, while at the same time isolating and defeating the latter group. In this regard we are drawing up plans to provide amnesty to Iraqis who supported the so-called resistance without committing crimes, while isolating the hard-core elements of terrorists and criminals and undercutting their base of support. The honor of decent Iraqi ex-officials including military and police should be restored, excluding of course those who committed heinous crimes against the nation.

The second key element of our policy will address the dire economic situation. The immediate priorities must be reduction of the high rate of unemployment and restoration of essential basic services throughout the country. Promises must be translated into tangible results in order to address the crisis of credibility and win back the trust and loyalty of the Iraqi people. This will require absorbing a high number of skilled and unskilled workers in reconstruction projects and activities that will follow the restoration of sovereignty. The main focus of these works will be rehabilitating the infrastructure, including transportation, electricity and water networks, health services and education. In addition, we must restore and build up the nation's oil production and revenue.

Third, the sovereign Iraqi government will secure the development of and support for a strong and independent judicial system, well trained and well funded, in order to ensure the rule of law, protection of property rights and respect for human rights. One important area will be anti-corruption laws and regulations. These steps are not only a vital prerequisite for security and economic progress but also a cornerstone for the future free and democratic Iraq that we aim to build.

The fourth objective of our government's policy will be to continue and accelerate the nation's political process and march toward democracy. Our aim is to cement national unity and promote a spirit of reconciliation by ensuring that all voices and groups are heard, and to prepare the country for free and fair elections through an agreed constitution. Ballots must replace bullets as the determinant of political authority in Iraq. Nation-building is the key. Alienation or revenge must be avoided.

It should be noted that with all these initiatives, Iraq, like all nations, has a unique cultural and historical national context, with its own customs and values. The democratic system developed in Iraq will not and should not be a replica of models imported from the United States, Britain or any other country. Rather, we Iraqis need to find and create the democratic political process that works best for us, while sharing in the universal values of all free nations, benefiting from the experience of other countries and drawing on the advice of international organizations such as the United Nations.

The challenges are great, and the stakes are high, both for Iraq and the world. We must not underestimate the magnitude of the task that lies ahead. Despite the hardships, we Iraqis are determined to work together and assume responsibility for the success of our country. But we will continue to need the support and commitment of the international community in order to realize our national aspirations. In particular, we are placing our trust in international commitments of reconstruction aid and debt forgiveness, as well as assistance with multinational military support until Iraq is ready and able to assume full responsibility for its own security. With these efforts, God willing, Iraq will take its rightful place among the free and prosperous nations of the world.

The writer is prime minister of Iraq's first postwar sovereign government.