Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Iraqi PM Maliki: No amnesty for killers of Americans

New York Times By SABRINA TAVERNISE and JOHN F. BURNS BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 27 — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said publicly on Tuesday for the first time that attacks on American soldiers would not be pardoned under the rules of a new Iraqi amnesty plan. In his first meeting with Western journalists since he became prime minister a month ago, Mr. Maliki sought to allay concerns raised by many in the United States that the plan, which he unveiled Sunday as part of a broad effort to reduce insurgent violence, could lead to pardons for some who had killed American soldiers and spur attacks on American units. Americans, he said, came to Iraq to help make it free. "Therefore, out of respect for their contribution to Iraq," no pardon will be offered to their killers, or to insurgents who have killed Iraqi soldiers and police officers, he said. It was the most unequivocal statement by any Iraqi official about the amnesty, which had caused confusion among Iraqi political leaders as well as American officials since it was announced in broad terms on Sunday. The amnesty is part of a "national reconciliation" program that Mr. Maliki, a Shiite, offered in an effort to find a political solution to the violence that continues to kill dozens of people a day, a vast majority of them Iraqi civilians. Iraq now has an elected government with a four-year term, but it has failed to improve security here in the battered capital, where Sunni and Shiite militias continue to kill with impunity, and some neighborhoods have sunk into conditions resembling anarchy.Insurgent violence on Tuesday claimed the lives of 21 Iraqis and 2 American servicemen, and wounded an additional 41 people. The American military also announced the deaths of 2 service members killed Monday in fighting in Anbar Province. Mr. Maliki was at pains on Tuesday to explain his reconciliation plan, which emerged from long consultations with the competing political blocs in his national unity government, but drew criticism for the vagueness of its amnesty provisions. They reflected the deep divisions in the government. Religious Shiites strongly opposed amnesty for Sunni insurgents, while Sunni Arabs said it would be meaningless without provisions to encourage insurgents to disarm. The Americans strongly favored reaching out to the insurgents, but opposed anything amounting to a pardon for rebels who participated in killing Americans, more than 2,500 of whom have died in the three-year war. Despite the vagueness of the amnesty terms, Mr. Maliki said the plan had drawn widespread interest from groups important to its success, including members of political militias, tribal groups, religious leaders and insurgent groups. He would not identify the insurgent groups. Asked to identify the sort of groups and individuals who would be eligible, he cited Iraqis who had carried out "sabotage" against the government, though only "minor" acts, as well as to those who had joined the insurgency out of hostility for the American-sponsored political process but had not killed anyone. He said it also would apply to members of the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein who renounced that allegiance. Insurgents who face trial over attacks would be eligible for pardons if they were found not guilty of any killings. "Whoever can prove himself innocent of murder in the judicial process will be allowed to join the political process," he said. Allies of Mr. Maliki have said that the amnesty, presented by American officials and the prime minister's aides among many initiatives that would give momentum to the new government, reflected his relative political weakness."Maliki's intentions are good, but he is not free to do as he likes," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of Parliament. "He is part of this Shiite bloc, and they don't believe in this initiative to begin with." Also on Tuesday, American military commanders released new details about three American servicemen killed by insurgents last week near Yusufiya. Maj. Gen. James Thurman, the commander of American forces in Baghdad, said 8,000 American and Iraqi troops followed a trail of "evidence," in a power plant, in a pickup truck there and on a canal road that helped lead to the bodies of two of the soldiers who had disappeared after an attack on June 16. The third soldier, who was killed in the initial attack, was found in the canal, he said. "We did not know the demise of the two soldiers at that point," he said. Also on Tuesday, the Iranian Fars News Agency reported that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran would visit Iraq to meet President Jalal Talabani. A spokesman for Mr. Talabani, Kameran Qaradaghi, said he had no details about the visit. Marine Won't Be Punished for Song WASHINGTON, June 27 (Reuters) — The United States military will not punish a marine who performed a graphically violent and obscenity-laced song to a laughing and cheering crowd of fellow soldiers in Iraq, making light of killing Iraqis, the Marine Corps said Tuesday.The Marines two weeks ago began a preliminary inquiry into whether the marine, Cpl. Joshua Belile, who returned home from Iraq in March, had violated military law or rules by singing the song, a four-minute video of which was posted on the Internet."No punitive action will be taken against Corporal Belile, and there will be no further investigation," said Maj. Shawn Haney, a spokeswoman at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina. Sahar Nageeb and Omar al-Neamicontributed reporting for this article.

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