Saturday, December 16, 2006

Iraqi PM invites Saddam officers to return to army

BAGHDAD, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday Iraqi army officers of all ranks sacked after the U.S. invasion in 2003 would be allowed to reapply for their posts in the new army.

The Shi'ite premier issued the invitation, a gesture towards disgruntled minority Sunnis, at a national reconciliation conference in Baghdad aimed at easing sectarian violence that U.N. officials estimate causes more than 100 deaths a day.

Shortly after the U.S. invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, U.S. administrator Paul Bremer quickly dissolved the Iraqi army, a decision experts consider a miscalculation. Many of its members then joined the ranks of the Sunni insurgency.

The Defence Ministry has recruited former officers of Saddam's army in the past but limited the invitation to junior ranks. Maliki's invitation was the first extended to all ranks.

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