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Iraqi Militias Promise to Disband under Iraqi Rule - 2004-06-07

Iraq's new interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, says his government has reached a deal to disband nearly all the militia groups in Iraq by early next year.

Mr. Allawi says nine major political parties agreed to disband 90 percent of their military wings by the time the country holds national elections in January. He said total disbandment would happen a few months later.

The armed groups include the Kurdish pershmerga militias, the Shi'ite Badr Brigade of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq as well as Mr. Allawi's own group, the Iraqi National Accord.

Most of the political parties who signed the agreement are participants in the nearly week-old interim government.

The prime minister says the 100,000 militia members affected by the move are now expected to become ordinary civilians or to join state or regional security forces.

"This is a process and this process just started now and today," said Mr. Allawi. "After concluding agreements with the various political organizations who have militias. We [are thankful for] the advice that we have been getting from friendly countries. We hope that this process ultimately will transpire to the adherence to the government of Iraq and to the unity of the country."

The deal does not include the Mahdi Army militia of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who launched a bloody uprising against U.S. forces in central Iraq two months ago.

Mr. Allawi says that militias not on the list for disbanding will be considered illegal and will be harshly dealt with if they do not agree to dissolve.

Analysts have welcomed the move as a positive step toward unifying Iraq. The armed factional militias had long given rise to fears that they could trigger a civil war among the country's volatile mix of ethnic and religious groups.