Maliki's government has finally signed an agreement to allow former low-level Baathists to work for the Iraqi government. This is long overdue and may be a result of US pressure on Maliki to reconcile with Iraq's Sunni Arabs and to meet other key benchmarks. Most members of the Baath party did not support the crimes committed by Saddam's regime and did not participate in any criminal activity - Bremer and his team should have realized this in 2004.
Iraq's leaders agree on key U.S. benchmarks
Sun Aug 26, 2007
By Waleed Ibrahim
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's top Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders announced on Sunday they had reached consensus on some key laws that Washington views as vital to fostering national reconciliation.
The appearance of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Iraqi television with the other leaders was a rare show of public unity amid crumbling support for the prime minister's government.
The other officials at the news conference were President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd; Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi; Shi'ite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and Masoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
Iraqi officials said the leaders had signed an agreement on easing restrictions on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party joining the civil service and military.
"They signed a new draft on debaathification," said Yasin Majid, a media adviser to Maliki.
Other officials said consensus had been reached on holding provincial elections and releasing many detainees who have been held without charge, a key demand of Sunni Arabs since the majority are members of their sect.
Majeed said the leaders also endorsed a draft oil law, which has already been agreed by the cabinet but has not yet gone to parliament.
PACKAGE OF LAWS
The law is seen as the most important of a package of measures that have been stalled by political infighting in Maliki's government between the political parties, who have been reluctant to compromise.
The lack of political action has frustrated U.S. President George W. Bush's administration, which has been urging more political progress before a pivotal report on Iraq is presented to the U.S. Congress next month.
The report by the U.S. military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and ambassador Ryan Crocker, is seen as a watershed moment in the unpopular four-year-old war, with Democrats likely to use the negligible political progress to press their case for troops to begin pulling out soon. Continued ...