BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 14 — The Bush administration has agreed to restore independence to Iraq as early as next June, apparently hoping the move will change the perception of the United States as an occupying power and curb the mounting attacks on American forces in the country, Iraqi and American officials said Friday.
The plan to accelerate the transfer of power was put forward by Iraqi leaders this week, and taken to Washington by L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator in Iraq. Late on Friday, officials said, a newly returned Mr. Bremer hastened to tell members of the Iraqi Governing Council's inner leadership circle that the White House had broadly accepted the plan.
Mr. Bremer is to meet with the full 24-member council on Saturday.
The agreement envisions giving Iraqis control over their own wealth and political affairs in advance of writing a constitution or holding national elections, while maintaining the presence of American and other foreign troops to assure stability, officials said.
"This is good for everyone," said Ahmad Chalabi, a council member who saw Mr. Bremer on Friday night. "We will have the U.S. forces here, but they will change from occupiers to a force that is here at the invitation of the Iraqi government."
The plan to give power to an Iraqi provisional government represents a sharp change in American policy, which had been focused on retaining control until a new constitution was adopted and elections held.
The switch occurred as American deaths have mounted rapidly, with 22 soldiers killed just this month when two helicopters were shot down. Three soldiers were killed and five were wounded in two roadside bombings Thursday and Friday. The increasing danger has prompted more questioning in Washington of the Bush administration's policy and planning for Iraq after Saddam Hussein was ousted in April.
Over the past month, it also became clear that the Iraqis in the Governing Council — the only native political authority, albeit unelected — were not willing to risk a public split over the process of drafting a constitution, which would inevitably open up a divisive debate over the future role of the Muslim clergy.
The deadlock demonstrated the new muscle of Iraq's majority Shiite Muslims, long oppressed by Saddam Hussein and his predecessors. They now hold a majority of seats on the Governing Council and insisted that it adhere to a ruling by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leading Shiite authority in Iraq, saying that only an elected body should write a new constitution.
The Iraqis also faced a United Nations Security Council deadline of Dec. 15 to establish a timetable for a constitution and national elections to gain international recognition.
Their solution, as proposed to Mr. Bremer this week, was to demand sovereignty first and schedule elections later. Bush administration officials, who have said they wanted to turn over authority to Iraqis as soon as practicable, largely accepted the Iraqi plan, said an American official who traveled with Mr. Bremer.
Ayatollah Sistani, according to clerics close to him, supports the plan. Leaders of Iraq's Kurds, who dominate in the north, and of the minority Sunni Muslims predominant in the center said they also viewed it as a way to avoid a showdown that could alienate large sections of the Iraqi public and destabilize the country further.
"Of course we want a constitution, but it is not as much a priority as sovereignty," said Sheik Jalal Uldin al-Saghir, a Shiite cleric who defended the ayatollah's edict on the council's constitutional committee.
"I think we can have elections by the end of 2004," added Sheik Saghir, who announced Mr. Bremer's acceptance of the sovereignty plan in his sermon at Friday Prayers. "But, before that, we must go through a process of transferring authority and a transitional period."
Iraqi leaders have pressed for more control over security, demanding that American troops pull out of Iraqi cities and turn over policing and intelligence-gathering to Iraqis.
While there is no certainty that attacks on American forces will diminish after this happens, Iraqi leaders believe that they will. "The occupation itself is a source of insecurity," said Adel Abdel Mahdi, the Governing Council representative of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main Shiite political party.
Whatever the final shape of the agreement reached between Mr. Bremer and the Governing Council, President Bush made it clear this week that he had no plans to withdraw the American military presence for some time — perhaps until Mr. Hussein is caught.
Mr. Bush told British reporters it was "inconceivable" that he would consider pulling all American troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan anytime soon. "We're not pulling out until the job is done. Period," he told the reporters, who saw him in the Oval Office on Wednesday.
"And that includes finding those two?" the reporters asked, referring to Mr. Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
"Yes, that's part of it," he said. "But an even bigger is a free and democratic society. That is the mission."
By defining the mission that way, Mr. Bush appeared to set a relatively high standard — that American troops, at some level, would be in Iraq and Afghanistan until there was an assurance of a stable democracy. But after sovereignty is returned to Iraq, one senior American official said, the United States forces would be in the country at the "invitation of the new government."
The Iraqi political leaders said they also planned to adopt a basic law setting out fundamental principles for the new Iraq, like equality for all sects and respect for human rights. The law, they said, would serve as the guide for their transitional government.
They said they would also expand the council's political base by forming a new legislative assembly of about 200 people, to be elected or designated in provincial meetings.
That assembly would appoint the provisional government, which would call for elections once a census is completed. Mr. Chalabi said he expected the process to take about 14 months, to be followed by a constitutional convention and then elections, possibly in 2006.
Iraqi political parties had proposed essentially the same plan for a legislative assembly and a transitional government in the weeks immediately following the fall of Baghdad and the ouster of the government of Mr. Hussein.
But Mr. Bremer and his British counterpart in the occupation administration rejected the proposal then, saying the Iraqis were not ready to assume political power. Instead, the Governing Council was created with limited powers to oversee government ministers and propose legislation to the occupation authority.
They have chafed under the restrictions ever since. The council meets only three days a week, and many of the political leaders who are members rarely attend.
Officials in the occupation authority have also expressed frustration with the present political setup, particularly the Governing Council's monthly rotating presidency. Mr. Bremer, administration officials said, will insist that the council provide him with a single Iraqi interlocutor to provide more consistency in his dealings with the Iraqi political body. It is not clear who, if anybody, on the council possesses the standing to assume such a role.
David E. Sanger, in Washington, contributed reporting for this article.