Following the formal handover of sovereignty to Baghdad, 15 Iraqi and Iraqi-American groups have issued an open letter to the American people, thanking them for the sacrifices they endured to liberate their country.

The letter will be delivered to President Bush at the White House today and published in a full page ad in USA Today.

“Just as we mourn for the victims of Saddam’s regime, we also grieve for the Americans and Iraqis who were killed or injured during the liberation or by terrorists determined to hold us back,” the letter reads. “We will honor those who have sacrificed for our freedom by building a new Iraq that lives in peace with the nations of the world, without fear of war, torture chambers or terrorism.”

The groups express the Iraqi people’s hopes as they transition to democracy and calls for continued cooperation and friendship between the two nations.

It concludes: “As Iraqis assume full sovereignty over our nation, we extend our hands in friendship and gratitude to the American people.

“The sacrifices your sons and daughters made for our liberation will never be forgotten. Without those brave young men and women, this day might never have come.”

The letter was organized by the Iraq-America Friendship Alliance, or IAFA, a new coalition of Iraqi and American organizations and individuals “committed to fostering goodwill between the two nations, supporting Iraq’s reconstruction and movement toward democracy and telling the untold story from Iraq.”

The IAFA is a project of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan think tank focused on defeating terrorism and spreading democracy in partnership with Iraqi and American organizations

“This is an important time for Iraqis and Americans alike,” said Janan Dakak, IAFA’s director. “While there will be many difficulties ahead, Iraqis are determined to build a peaceful and democratic nation that joins the free world.”

The IAFA plans to bring Iraqis to the United States to tell the story of Iraq’s movement towards democracy and provide stories and images of the country’s reconstruction.

The IAFA currently is sponsoring a speaking tour featuring Don North, a documentary filmmaker who produced “Remembering Saddam,” an account of seven Iraqi men who had their hands removed by the former dictator.

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