Iraqi Leader Outlines Plan for Reconciliation
Monday, June 26, 2006
BAGHDAD, June 25 -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday invited insurgents to lay down their weapons and join the political process, promising an amnesty for opponents who have not been involved in acts of terrorism.
Maliki unveiled his 24-point national reconciliation plan in a speech Sunday morning at a parliament meeting in the heavily guarded Green Zone. It was the new Shiite Muslim-led government's first major initiative aimed at diminishing the violence and defusing the Sunni Arab insurgency.
The reconciliation plan, which also called for strengthening Iraqi armed forces in preparation for the departure of U.S. troops, received hearty applause and expressions of support from parliament members representing disparate factions in Iraqi politics.
But the initiative as presented Sunday provided few details about how the reconciliation process would unfold or who, specifically, would be pardoned. Maliki said the "reconciliation will be neither with the terrorists nor the Saddamists," referring to supporters of former president Saddam Hussein.
The plan called for pardoning detainees "who were not involved in crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity" and for forming committees to secure the release of innocent prisoners as quickly as possible.
"The launch of this national reconciliation and dialogue initiative should not be read as rewarding the killers and criminals or accepting their actions," he said. "There can be no agreement with them unless they are punished with justice.
"To those who want to rebuild our country, we offer an olive branch," he said.
The positive reception of Maliki's reconciliation plan was somewhat undercut by deadly violence across the country.
Video footage posted on a Web site showed the apparent executions of three Russian Embassy workers who were abducted June 3 from the Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad.
A statement issued by the Mujaheddin al-Shura Council, an umbrella organization of insurgent groups including al-Qaeda in Iraq, accompanied the video. It said a fourth worker also was killed and that the killings were "revenge for our brothers and sisters who are being tortured, killed, and made destitute by the infidel Russian government." The kidnappers earlier had demanded that Russia withdraw troops from Chechnya, a war-torn region that is home to many Muslims. The Russian government has not confirmed the deaths.
Also Sunday, the U.S. military announced that a soldier from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat team, 4th Infantry Division was killed Saturday by a roadside bomb attack on his convoy south of Baqubah, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
The reconciliation plan has gone through several revisions. Earlier proposals suggested offering pardons for those who attacked Americans, but Maliki's plan offered Sunday did not make a distinction between crimes against U.S. troops and crimes against Iraqis.