Iraq mulls bringing Baath Party members into fold

March 14th, 2009 - 6:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, March 14 (DPA) The Iraqi government is seeking to bring former members of the ousted Baath Party into the process of national reconciliation, a media report said Saturday.
In remarks published in Baghdad’s al-Sabbah daily, Iraqi Minister of State for National Dialogue Akram al-Hakim urged former members of the Iraqi Baath Party to sign off on the government’s draft plan for national reconciliation, and to help identify those responsible for abuses under ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s regime, regardless of their party affiliation.

Former Baathists should “move quickly to sort out the criminals who committed heinous crimes against the Iraqi people, regardless of their political party or rank in the previous government”, al-Hakim said.

The Iraqi government has lately been trying to bring former members of the Baath Party, who accounted for approximately 10 percent of the population before the party was banned after US-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003, into a “national reconciliation” process.

Iraq’s Vice President Adil Abdel-Mahdi last week met Mohammed Rashad al-Sheikh Radi, formerly a senior member of the Baath Party, in the first public meeting between a senior figure from the new government and a senior member of the former ruling party.

“We need the goodwill and integration of all parties if we’re going to successfully reconcile the country and build a national consensus,” Abdel-Mahdi said at the time.

Abdel-Mahdi, a Shia Musliam, is a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which was based in Iraq’s old rival, Iran, during Saddam Hussein’s rule. He spent most of the years of Baath rule in exile in France.

The new Iraqi government is dominated by Shia and Kurdish political parties that opposed the Baathist government that ruled Iraq from 1963 until the 2003 invasion.

In January 2008, the Iraqi parliament passed the “Accountability and Justice Law”, which eased a ban on former Baathists’ holding public sector jobs, including at schools and universities, while condemning the crimes of the Baathist government.

The number of people who lost their jobs in the subsequent purge is subject to dispute, but since a de-Baathification committee began work in 2004, more than 100,000 former low-ranking party members have been allowed to return to work.

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