Maliki’s tough terms complicate bid for Iraqi reconciliation

Jay Deshmukh
BAGHDAD, June 29, 2006 (AFP) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s tough conditions for pardoning Sunni rebels who lay down their arms are going to make it difficult to convince them to do so, an Iraqi MP said Thursday.

At the same time, a foreign diplomat raised questions about the identity of armed groups reportedly in contact with the government and whether they carry any real weight in the nationwide insurgency.

"I see escalation of conditions" by the Sunni rebel groups, said Kurdish lawmaker Mahmud Othman.

"The situation is getting complicated, as Maliki said there will be no pardon for those who have killed Iraqis. How do you negotiate then and with whom?"

On Wednesday, Maliki said he and others in his government had been approached by rebel groups who want to lay down their weapons and join the political process.

But he added that "those who targeted coalition troops, foreigners and journalists will not be offered amnesty as they have spread terror."

That was in apparent response to unease expressed by some US senators to the possibility that he might pardon those who attacked US troops.

In contrast, Maliki said that "those who have no blood of Iraqis or security forces on their hand, our doors are open for them."

Othman said this left "limited scope for negotiations."

"In a war or fighting people are going to die. When you declare a ceasefire it has to take this into consideration," he told AFP.

"Those who have killed people in cold blood like beheadings or car bombings they should not be pardoned, but in a fighting, in a war people are going to die. It is part of war."

Othman also said that refusal by some leaders to acknowledge that there are resistance groups opposing US-led occupation in Iraq was also complicating the issue.

A number of Sunni groups, especially from the western Al-Anbar province, took up arms to oppose the occupation after the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Othman said a few days ago that seven armed groups had shown interest in negotiating with the governent on condition that the US-led coalition propose a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq.

But a foreign diplomat close to the reconciliation plan expressed doubt Thursday on reports of negotiations between rebel groups and Iraqi officials.