Iraq Refines Its Amnesty Plan

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 23, 2006

BAGHDAD, June 22 -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new plan to promote reconciliation among Iraq's rival factions will offer amnesty to Iraqis who have "carried weapons" but not to those who have committed serious crimes, according to Iraqi politicians who have read the proposal.

The plan is the first formal initiative by Maliki's Shiite Muslim-led government to reach out to insurgents and create a political dialogue among factions. It has gone through several revisions, and the specifics are expected to be discussed in parliament Sunday.

Earlier proposals suggested offering pardons to Iraqis who have attacked U.S. troops but not to those who attacked Iraqis, an idea the U.S. Senate strongly denounced. The new plan does not make that distinction, Iraqi officials said.

"It says that the government will issue an amnesty for all those who have not committed crimes against the people of Iraq and the friends of Iraq," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, an ethnic Kurd from President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. "Those who attack U.S. forces are not immune from legal consequences. An attack on Iraqi forces or multinational forces are seen legally . . . as the same thing from the perspective of the government."

Details of the reconciliation plan emerged on a day when the U.S. military announced that five service members had been killed in action.

Four Marines died Tuesday while operating in the violent western province of Anbar. Three were assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, the military said in a statement; the fourth was part of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.

A fifth service member, whose unit was not named, died at about 11:30 a.m. the following day when a roadside bomb blasted his vehicle south of Baghdad, military officials said.

Many political leaders here say that the violence plaguing Iraq cannot be halted without engaging insurgents in political discussions. But Maliki's reconciliation plan does not include offering amnesty to members of al-Qaeda or to loyalists of former president Saddam Hussein who committed war crimes, Iraqi officials said.

The plan has about 20 central points, which include inviting human rights organizations to monitor Iraqi prisons and allowing certain members of Hussein's Baath Party who were removed from their jobs after the U.S. invasion to make a case for reinstatement, officials said. "Implementing it will be the real challenge," Saleh said.

The plan appears to be as much a starting point for discussions as a culmination of them, said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish legislator. He said that defining who would be pardonable, which crimes were considered major crimes and how the militias would be treated will all require more work.

Othman also said the proposed amnesty was too restrictive. "To me, anybody who is ready to make a dialogue with the government and wants the political process to succeed" should be able to seek amnesty, he said.

But Mithal Alousi, a member of parliament from a secular party, said that if the reconciliation plan "is for the thugs and criminals, I say no," according to an interview broadcast on al-Hurra television. "There are some who have slaughtered Iraqis, yet they claim they represent parties and militias, and the religious extremists. . . . Let's be honest and call things by their name."

Special correspondent K.I. Ibrahim contributed to this report.

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