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Iraq's Parliament Passes Key Legislation Sought by US

Iraq's parliament has approved legislation to allow former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to be reinstated to government jobs - a key benchmark sought by the United States for measuring progress toward national reconciliation.

The measure approved Saturday had been stalled in parliament. It will relax restrictions on the right of former Baathists to fill government posts. Those restrictions were put in place after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Iraqi Shi'ites persecuted under Saddam Hussein's rule had opposed the law.

The White House confirmed that Iraq's parliament had passed the measure and called it a "good step."

Thousands of Baath officials were dismissed from government jobs after Saddam was ousted from power in 2003. Their dismissal deepened sectarian tensions between Iraq's majority Shi'ites and once-dominant Sunnis.

In other news, the U.S. military says coalition forces detained 15 suspected terrorists in operations targeting al-Qaida networks in central and northern Iraq. Earlier this week, U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a major operation against al-Qaida in Iraq and other extremists called Operation Phantom Phoenix.

The U.S. military also announced that a Marine died Friday in a non-combat related incident in al-Anbar province.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.