Home Muslim World News Iraq law to help reconciliation with Saddam followers

Iraq law to help reconciliation with Saddam followers

By Xinhua

Baghdad : The Iraqi parliament has passed a bill easing restrictions on former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

The legislation, known as Accountability and Justice Law, was passed by parliament Saturday.

It has been pending before parliament since March because Shia members, particularly those loyal to the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, rejected the return of Baathists to public life.

The controversial law will allow thousands of former Baath Party members get government jobs, provided they are innocent of crimes against the Iraqis under Saddam’s regime.

A small number of senior party members, meanwhile, are still barred from returning to their posts. However, they are entitled pensions, according to the 30-point new law.

A new committee will be set up to replace the former controversial De-Baathification Committee, which was tasked with purging the government of Baath members.

“If this law is implemented correctly on the ground, it will allow many Baathists to return to the public life and will curb the violence,” Mahmoud Othman, a lawmaker from the Kurdish area, said.

“I think it (the law) is a right step toward the national reconciliation in Iraq,” he said.

The law, which still needs the approval of Iraq’s presidential council, was passed at the 275-seat parliament where only about 140 lawmakers were present for voting.

The US has been pressuring Iraq’s government for a breakthrough in reuniting the polarized nation.

Prior to the passage of the law, US President George W. Bush, who was on a Middle East tour, said in Kuwait that the Iraqi government needs to do more.

Hours later, the president hailed the legislation in Bahrain.

“It’s an important step toward reconciliation. It’s an important sign that the leaders of that country understand that they must work together to meet the aspirations of the Iraqi people,” he said.

The Baath party was dissolved following the fall of Saddam and his followers were expelled from public services. The move led to a rift between the Shias and the Sunnis and contributed to violence, as some of the unemployed Baath members turned to insurgency.