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Iraq's Government to Consider Bill to Reinstate Former Baathists


Iraq's prime minister and president have introduced new legislation to make it easier for former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to resume working in government and security positions. VOA's Margaret Besheer reports from northern Iraq that backers of the measure believe its passage would be an important step toward national reconciliation.

The legislation aims to offer jobs to former regime officials who did not previously hold high positions. But it would exclude those already charged with or wanted for crimes. It would also grant state pensions to many former Baathists.

If approved by both the Cabinet and parliament, the so-called Law of Accountability and Justice would help to reconcile the country's ruling Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih says the proposed legislation is necessary for national reconciliation, saying it will foster unity and cooperation among the Iraqi people.

Many Sunni Arabs belonged to the Baath party and were left unemployed by an earlier de-Baathification program administered by the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority after Saddam Hussein was ousted in April 2003.

That program is widely blamed for leaving many former members of the military and security forces armed and out of work, stoking the country's insurgency.

Under the proposed law, Iraqi citizens would have three months to challenge the reinstatement of any particular Baathist. A special tribunal would review challenges and have three months to make a ruling, which could not be appealed.

Mr. Salih says the law would be the starting point of a new plan to rehabilitate former Baathists and to know who has committed crimes against the Iraqi people. He says those who are guilty of crimes must be held accountable and punished according to the law.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Baghdad welcomed the draft legislation, saying the measure provides "the basis for reconciliation and accountability."

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