Monday, September 03, 2007


Draft law could ease restrictions on Baathists

(Reuters) - An Iraqi draft law has been submitted to parliament to ease curbs on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party joining the civil service and military, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday. The draft is one of the benchmarks set by the United States to foster reconciliation between warring majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs.
Many Baath party members were Sunnis who now feel persecuted by Maliki's Shi'ite-led government. Maliki told a news conference the draft was discussed by a committee of political parties and said he felt the "parliament, which represents the political powers that participated in this discussion, will approve it". Lawmakers return to parliament on Tuesday after a month-long recess, but it was unclear when they would begin debating the draft debaathification law.
On Aug. 26, Iraq's top five Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders including Maliki agreed on the draft legislation. But the measure -- as it has for many months -- is likely to face opposition from within the ruling Shi'ite Alliance and the committee tasked with purging Baathists from the government. Iraqi officials have said the Aug. 26 deal on the draft law was a sign of progress ahead of reports to be presented to the U.S. Congress next week.
The U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker will testify on Iraq's security and political situation on Sept. 10. Their assessments could prompt a shift in U.S. President George W. Bush's Iraq policy amid calls from opposition Democrats and some senior Republicans for U.S. troops to start leaving Iraq because of the lack of political progress. The Iraqi government has yet to present other key draft laws, including legislation that aims to equitably share Iraq's vast oil wealth among its different sects and ethnic groups.

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