Key Shiite Leaders Reject Bill Allowing Former Baathists to Return to Posts


A long-awaited Bill to allow members of Saddam Hussain's Sunni Baath party to return to public life in Iraq was tabled in parliament yesterday but immediately rejected by jeering hardline Shiites.

Washington regards the bill as vital to stuttering reconciliation efforts in Iraq and it has made its adoption one of 18 benchmarks by which the progress of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's Shiite-led government can be measured.

The first reading of the Justice and Accountability Law, which has been stalled in the deeply-divided parliament for months, was greeted with heckles by lawmakers of Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr's political bloc.

"No! No, to Baathists," the Sadrists shouted, noisily banging their desks and prompting parliamentary speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani to order the session to continue behind closed doors.

"The draft violates the Iraqi constitution," Falah Hasan Shanshal, an Al Sadr group lawmaker, told the parliament, according to a statement issued by the assembly.

His colleague, Baha'a Al Araji said the Al Sadr bloc had several reservations regarding the Bill.

Back to legal committee

Ezzat Shahbandar, from a parliamentary committee dealing with the issue, said the Bill had been sent back to the legislature's legal body for changes. He said this meant the government might want to review any fresh amendments to a bill that some officials say has already been revised four times. "This means it will take a long time," Shahbandar said. Related art

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