Amnesty To Exclude Killers of GIs, Iraqis

Detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison yard wait to be released. Another 500 detainees were released as part of a national reconciliation plan that aims to release 2,500 prisoners this month.
Detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison yard wait to be released. Another 500 detainees were released as part of a national reconciliation plan that aims to release 2,500 prisoners this month. (By Ali Jasim-pool -- Getty Images)
By Joshua Partlow and Bassam Sebti
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

BAGHDAD, June 27 -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed Tuesday that no one who has killed Americans or Iraqis would be pardoned under his government's national reconciliation plan.

"The fighter who did not kill anyone will be included in the amnesty, but the fighter who killed someone will not be," Maliki said in his first interview with Western print reporters since he became prime minister last month. "This is an international commitment, an ethical commitment: Whoever kills is not included in amnesty."

Sitting at the head of a polished wood conference table, beneath a framed Koranic verse -- "Consult with others and when you reach a decision, trust in God" -- Maliki spoke for nearly an hour about the need to build up the Iraqi army before U.S. and other foreign forces could withdraw, his desire to disband violent militias and the terms of his two-day-old reconciliation plan.

The question of who should receive amnesty has been fiercely debated, and the issue was not settled with the vague terms first offered on Sunday, when the plan was brought before parliament. Some politicians argue that only a broader amnesty has any real chance of bringing the violent Sunni Arab insurgency into the Iraqi political process in a peaceful way. But Maliki, a Shiite Muslim who heads a government led by Shiite religious parties, said the Iraqi and American families who have lost loved ones in the three-year war would not stand for such pardons.

"We have people who have confessed to killing 10, 20, 50, sometimes 100 Iraqis or Americans," he said. "And I think if a general amnesty was announced, it would have a very negative reaction."

Maliki said lesser offenses, such as minor acts of sabotage or participation in former president Saddam Hussein's Baath Party could be forgiven.

Maliki spoke on a day when the U.S. military announced that three American soldiers and a Marine had been killed in Iraq. Two of the soldiers and the Marine died over the past two days from fighting in the embattled western province of Anbar. The third soldier was killed by a roadside bomb Tuesday while on a foot patrol south of Baghdad.

During the interview, Maliki refused to set a date for when he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw. "As the readiness of Iraqi troops goes up," he said, "the need for American or international troops goes down."

"I would also say that all the Iraqis are looking forward to the day when all foreign troops" are gone, he said.

In the two days since Maliki set forth the outline of his reconciliation plan during a speech in parliament, response from Iraq's Sunni Arab minority has been disparate. Some elder Sunni politicians, such as Adnan al-Dulaimi, as well as the Sunni Endowment, the government body that oversees Sunni mosques and religious affairs, have endorsed the plan.

In addition, Maliki said, seven insurgent groups have expressed through a third party their desire to enter in discussions with the government. Maliki declined to name the groups.

To further the reconciliation, government employees who had been detained and then released would be reinstated in their jobs with no detrimental effect on their bonuses or chance at promotion, the Council of Ministers said in a statement Tuesday. Students who spent time in prison would not be failed for missing class and could make up final exams.

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