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Iraqi Cabinet Approves Draft Law Pardoning Detainees


The Iraqi Cabinet has taken a step aimed at promoting national reconciliation: a general pardon for thousands of prisoners held in Iraqi and American detention facilities. From Washington, VOA's Michael Bowman reports.

Some 50,000 detainees are currently being held in Iraq, many of them suspected insurgents belonging to the country's Sunni Muslim minority. A draft law approved by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki aims to identify prisoners who would be eligible for release under a general pardon. The law would have to be approved by Iraq's parliament to go into effect.

Iraq has seen a sharp increase in detentions since the United States initiated a troop surge aimed at restoring order to the strife torn country. Many prisoners are held without formal charges, and their fate is one of many sensitive issues believed to be complicating efforts to promote national reconciliation.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials in Iraq are hailing the decision of many Sunni fighters to ally themselves with U.S. forces in the battle against al-Qaida terrorists in Iraq. The Associated Press quotes a U.S. military spokesman as saying the decision was one of the most important developments of 2007 as far as improving security in Iraq, contributing to a sharp reduction in violence in the country.

While not downplaying the significance of Iraq's improved security situation, some analysts in the United States and elsewhere have questioned the long-term effects of bolstering Sunni militants in the fight against al-Qaida, noting that their weapons could one day be aimed at Iraq's Shi'ite-dominated national government.

Meanwhile, in the battle against al-Qaida in Iraq, the U.S. military has released new details about the recent killing of a key leader of the terrorist organization. Major General Kevin Bergner made the announcement in Baghdad.

"A senior al-Qaida terrorist named Muhammad Sulayman Shunathir al-Zubai, also known as Abu Abdullah, was killed south of Samarra. Abu Abdullah was a legacy al-Qaida terroristm," he said.

General Bergner described the terrorist as an experienced bomb-maker who coordinated numerous attacks against multinational and Iraqi forces. The U.S. military says he was killed last month.