Sun, Jun 25, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Iraq to have reconciliation plan

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE Speaking about the PM's new plan, one Kurdish member of the Iraqi parliament said `these issues should have been dealt with two or three years ago'

THE GUARDIAN , BAGHDAD

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will unveil his blueprint for national reconciliation today, which he hopes will draw the sting out of the Sunni-Arab led insurgency and help to bridge the country's deepening communal divisions.

Government officials said the 28-point plan, which will be presented to the parliament in Baghdad, includes provisions aimed at reaching out to Iraq's once-powerful but now disaffected Sunni-Arabs.

It proposes: a limited amnesty for "low-level insurgents and groups" who have not committed serious crimes; fostering a dialogue with "rejectionist" groups who oppose terrorism and sign up to the political process; allowing human rights groups to monitor and help to reform Iraq's notorious prison system; "solving the problem" of the Shia militias; "reviewing" the de-Ba'athification program.

On the issue of foreign troops in Iraq, the document vows to "move quickly and seriously" to build up Iraq's security forces so that they "can guarantee security" and thus "pave the way for the withdrawal of multinational forces."

But there is no mention of a specific timeline for a pullout as called for by Sunni Arab politicians. The anti-western Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr wants foreign troops out now.

The plan also outlines a commitment to kickstart the stalled reconstruction process in Iraq, improve basic services and tackle the nation's high unemployment.

Early drafts were said to have contained an offer of pardons to Iraqi prisoners who had attacked US troops, but not to those "who had shed Iraqi blood."

"The new proposals do not make that distinction," said Kameran Karadaghi, chief of staff to President Jalal Talabani, yesterday. "A crime is a crime, no matter who is the target."

In particular, Mr Maliki has ruled out showing clemency to members of al-Qaeda linked groups or to Saddam Hussein loyalists who committed war crimes. "There is a space for dialogue with insurgents who opposed those criminals who killed the innocent."

The reconciliation blueprint is the first formal attempt by Iraq's post-Saddam rulers to come to terms with rifts caused by decades of dictatorship, war and the aftermath of the US-led invasion.

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