Iraq Goverment to reinstate Baathists - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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Iraq Goverment to reinstate Baathists

Published: 11/08/2006 12:00 AM (UAE)

Draft law to reinstate most ex-Baathists

Baghdad: Thousands of former members of Saddam Hussain's Baath party, purged after the US invasion of Iraq, could return to public life under proposals being presented to parliament, a senior official said yesterday.

The move comes after Saddam was sentenced on Sunday to hang for crimes against humanity.

Ali Faysal Al Lami, executive director of the De-Baathification Committee set up by the United States after Saddam's 2003 overthrow, said the committee will recommend allowing most former Baath party officials to return to work.

The proposals to be put to parliament will reduce the number of senior ex-Baathists excluded from public life from 30,000 to just 1,500 senior officials, he said. "We are going to deliver these proposals to parliament in a few days," Al Lami said.

The move addresses longstanding demands of Saddam's fellow minority Sunni Arabs.

Concerned at Sunni Arab marginalisation, Washington has been pressing Iraq's Shiite-led government to reform the De-Baathification Committee and transform it into what US officials call "an accountability and reconciliation programme".

However, US pressure on such issues has fuelled suspicions among leaders of the once-oppressed Shiite majority that the United States, wary of undue influence on Iraq from Shiite Iran, is shifting its favour toward the rebellious Sunnis.

The committee was set up under US military rule in 2003 to purge officials from Saddam's Baath party, which numbered more than a million by some estimates in a country of 25 million.

Critics complained too many people were affected, including vital bureaucrats and many who joined the party from necessity rather than conviction.

Ahmad Al Alwani, a Sunni member of parliament from the Accordance List, said the original de-Baathification law had been used selectively, targeting Sunni Arabs far more than Shiites who had also been members of the Baath Party.

"I'm sure with this law, if it is implemented in a good way, avoiding the mistakes that happened before ... Iraq will witness a new era of stability," Al Alwani said.

"We are not against de-Baathification but we are against any misuse of this law, especially double standards," he said.

Disenchantment among Sunni Arabs has fuelled the insurgency against US-forces and the Shiite- and Kurdish-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, threatening to pitch Iraq into civil war.

Al Lami said that if parliament approved the draft amendment, all but the 1,500 senior former Baath Party officials would be allowed either to return to their jobs or to take retirement.

Reform of the de-Baathification Committee is among a series of "benchmarks" for progress in Iraq that the US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said last month Washington was hoping to see.

Negroponte on secret Iraq mission

After often publicly clashing with Iraq Premier Nuri al Maliki, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad is said to be replaced in the near future.
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