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Iraq to Rehire Saddam-Era Army Officers

The Iraqi government says it will reinstate 20,000 army officers who served under Saddam Hussein and were fired after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

A Defense Ministry spokesman, Mohammad al-Askari, said Friday the former officers will be rehired right away.

This move comes just a few days before parliamentary elections on March 7, prompting some to allege that the rehiring step is political.

Opposition members are accusing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of trying to win support from Saddam's Ba'ath party, which has been marginalized since the dictator's ouster. The government denies any connection.

Sectarian tensions have flared recently, especially after the government banned nearly 500 candidates from taking part in the March 7 vote for allegedly having ties to the Ba'ath party. The majority of the disqualified candidates are minority Sunnis.

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