Thursday, October 19, 2006
The Bush administration is pressing the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki to issue a “broad” and “painful” amnesty for insurgents in spite of intense opposition to the proposal from politicians both in Iraq and the US, according to a senior administration official. Amid growing anxiety in Washington over Iraq's escalating sectarian violence, the US is advocating more determined moves towards a national reconciliation with the Sunni community that dominates Iraq’s insurgency. It also wants a tougher line on the Shia militias.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy in Baghdad, has supported the concept of a broad amnesty. He said in July he would try to work with Iraqi leaders to “find the right balance between reconciliation and accountability” so that the US dead remained honoured. Suggestions of an amnesty have been opposed by Shia parties advocating tougher security measures against the insurgents. A conference to discuss the plan was recently postponed. One senior Iraqi official said the amnesty would be discussed “at the right time” and that it would not, in any case, include anyone who had been incriminated in violence. Another senior official insisted that an amnesty would have little impact. “It would be seen as a sign of weakness by the insurgents – that’s the mentality here,” he said.