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Tags: Iraq | Saddam | election | cronies

Iraq Bars 500 Saddam Cronies From Election

Friday, 22 January 2010 11:10 AM

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government said on Friday that more than 500 candidates disqualified from a March general election for alleged links to Saddam Hussein must denounce his ousted regime and its crimes.

Government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said in a statement that such a disavowal of the executed dictator and his now outlawed Baath party would enable the candidates' reintegration into Iraqi society, but he did not specifically offer reinstatement on the ballot papers.

"The Baathists whose names figure on the list drawn up by the integrity and accountability committee must declare their innocence and condemn the crimes and failings of Saddam Hussein's regime and the Baath party," Dabbagh said.

"It will provide them with the opportunity to live normally and integrate back into Iraqi society."

The blacklist of more than 500 names has stoked tensions between the Shiite majority that leads the government and the Sunni Arab former elite, alarming the White House and the United Nations ahead of the March 7 vote.

The row sparked a flurry of contacts in recent days by US Vice President Joe Biden aimed at brokering a compromise, notably through President Jalal Talabani, who is a Kurd.

Biden "proposed that the disqualifications be deferred until after the election and that those candidates who have been barred condemn and disavow the Baath party and undertake to act through democratic means," Talabani said.

Electoral commission chief Faraj al-Haidari meanwhile told AFP more candidates could be barred from contesting the election with the defence and interior ministries publishing lists naming "numerous candidates who have criminal records or false diplomas."

Haidari said the list of former Baathists barred from running in the election includes an equal proportion of Sunnis and Shiites, as well as Kurds and "all the components of Iraqi society."

But he said the government has "no authority to reintegrate the Baathists," since only the supreme court has the power to declare that the candidates' disqualifications "lacked a legal basis and to reinstate their names."

Talabani called on Thursday for just such a referral to the supreme court, questioning the legality of the integrity and accountability committee which drew up the blacklist.

"Our question is: 'Is the organisation that took this decision legal?'" the president said.

Prominent Sunni Arab MPs have advanced a similar argument, pointing out that the committee was never approved by parliament.

The blacklist includes members of Saddam's once deadly Fedayeen (Men of Sacrifice) militia and Mukhabarat intelligence division.

Baath party membership was essential for obtaining a job and promotion in Iraq's omnipotent public sector during Saddam's regime.

A process of de-Baathification was adopted by Washington diplomat Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, following the US-led invasion of 2003, which saw thousands of Saddam-era employees lose their jobs.

Talabani urged Iraqis to draw a distinction between hardcore Saddam loyalists and the many more who joined the Baath party for pragmatic reasons.

"Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to join the party because membership was mandatory," he said. "We should not be unjust with them."

But to reverse the candidates' disqualification would risk alienating the majority community in the run-up to the election -- the second since Saddam's regime was toppled in 2003 -- in which for the first time leading Shiite politicians are standing on opposing lists.

On Thursday, thousands of Shiites took to the streets of the central shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf, as well as the main southern city of Basra, in support of the blacklist.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, 22 January 2010 11:10 AM
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