Saturday, December 16, 2006

Maliki reaches out to members of Saddam's army at reconciliation conference

Nouri al-Maliki, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, Moqtada al-Sadr,
Harith al-Dhari and Massoud Barzani

Baathist insurgents

BAGHDAD, Iraq: Iraq's prime minister stressed Saturday that the national army has "opened its doors" to former members of Saddam Hussein's army as the government seeks help in curbing the rampant violence in the country.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also offered an olive branch to former members of Saddam's outlawed Baath Party not found to be involved in crimes against Iraqis.

His comments came as the Iraqi government convened a national reconciliation conference aimed at rallying ethnic, religious and political groups around a common strategy for handling Iraq's problems.

But the gathering was overshadowed by rising sectarian tensions and political divisions as al-Maliki's 7-month-old government faces growing dissent by coalition partners, including Shiite allies like radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr's bloc and the Sunni National Association of Muslim Scholars said they would not attend the gathering.

Some Baath Party members not linked to the Sunni-led insurgency, as well as former army officers, were among the delegates, organizers said.

Al-Maliki reached out to the officers and soldiers who lost their posts after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam nearly four years ago.

He imposed few conditions on the return of former military personnel, only cautioning that those allowed to serve in the new army should be loyal to the country and conduct themselves professionally.

He also said the size of the army might limit the number accepted but those unable to join would be given pensions.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

Related Link:
Sources: Iraqi PM Weighs Political Realignment

Related Link:
Perspective: Iraq divided over unity conference

Related Link:
Hashemi: US must reform Iraqi forces before leaving

Related Link:
Report: Maliki invited to join U.S.-backed anti-Sadr coalition

Related Link:
Secret American talks with insurgents break down

Related Link:
Leader of Baathist loyalists cites stringent conditions before any talks

Related Link:
Al-Sadr bloc talks of new alliance with Sunnis, Christians

Related Link:
Maliki, U.S., Britain to meet with Sunni insurgent representatives next week

Related Link:
Iraqi opposition group agrees to join national reconciliation conference

Related Link:
Saddam lieutenant calls for Baath Party insurgents to stop fighting

Related Link:
Iraqi draft law would reinstate most ex-Baathists