Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Deal to aid Iraq's ex-Baathists imperiled


The plan to provide jobs or pensions angers Shiites who recall the victims of Hussein's party.

BAGHDAD — Before the ink was dry Tuesday on a compromise to allow former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to get government and military jobs, opposition erupted that could jeopardize the measure, one of the "benchmarks" for U.S. troop withdrawal.

The reaction to the proposal to revise one of the laws that has most infuriated Sunni Arabs suggested that the measure could face stiff opposition in the Shiite Muslim-dominated parliament.

"Our opinion is that this is an attempt to return Baathists into the highest echelons of power within the coming six months … without taking into account the many innocent victims who suffered from the Baathists," said Ali Lami, a member of the heavily Shiite commission charged with removing ranking Baath members from government.

"I think there will be great opposition within the parliament concerning this law," Lami added.

The Bush administration considers reform of the so-called de-Baathification process one of the most important steps the Iraqi government can take to reconcile Sunni Arabs with the country's new Shiite leaders and halt deadly sectarian fighting.

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