Iraq’s Hakim says amnesty should include killers of US troops

BAGHDAD, July 3, 2006 (AFP) – Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the head of parliament’s largest bloc, told AFP Monday that he favours extending an amnesty to insurgents who may have killed US troops.

"Yes, they should be covered regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliations," Hakim said in an interview when asked if he would support extending a reconciliation and amnesty plan unveiled by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to those who may have attacked US-led troops in Iraq.

Hakim’s position would contradict that of his government ally Maliki, also a Shiite, who said on Wednesday that there would be no amnesty to those who killed US troops, foreigners or journalists.

At the same time Hakim said he would categorically oppose any dialogue with "Saddamists and takfeeris", catchall terms used by hardline Shiites to refer to loyalists of ousted leader Saddam Hussein and extremist Sunni Arab militants who regard Iraq’s majority Shiites as apostates.

Hakim, who also heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) party, visited Tehran last month where he met with the top leadership of the Islamic republic.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on US and other foreign troops to leave Iraq following his meeting with Hakim.

Before Saddam’s fall, Hakim spent two decades in Iran, where SCIRI was based and where its paramilitary wing the Badr Brigades was formed with help from Tehran.

Hakim was among the first to return to Iraq after the US-led invasion in March 2003 toppled Saddam. He was appointed to the US-formed Governing Council during the rule of the US occupation administration that lasted until June 2004.