United States to Reinstate Some Baathists in Iraq
Thu Apr 22, 2004 12:25 PM ET
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Some senior Iraqi officials sacked in a purge of those connected with Saddam Hussein's regime will be brought back in an overhaul of the policy, a spokesman for the U.S.-led administration said Thursday.
Dan Senor suggested the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council had gone overboard in preventing former senior members of Saddam's Baath Party from returning to work.
"We want it to be implemented in the way it was designed," Senor told a news conference.
Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, would address the nation Friday on the issue, he added.
Senor said there was "no room in the new Iraq" for former Baathist involved in "crimes and brutality," but skilled people who were Baath members in name only should be welcomed back.
The original plan, he said, was to allow an appeals procedure to identify those untainted by the excesses of Saddam's rule and allow them to help rebuild Iraq. "The appeals process sometimes has been slower in implementation than was originally designed" and thousands of Iraqis had complained to Bremer about it, he said.
The top echelons of the Baath Party were drawn mainly from Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority to which Saddam himself belonged.
Insurgents in Sunni heartlands north and west of Baghdad have put up the stiffest resistance to the U.S.-led occupation, partly because the community has felt penalized and excluded from power since Saddam's fall just over a year ago.
Last week, however, a few former Iraqi generals were brought back to help run the nascent armed forces being created to replace those disbanded by Bremer last May.
A U.S. military spokesman, Brigadier General Mark Kimmet, said more former Iraqi officers would be recruited.
"As the organization gets bigger, there's going to be a need for high-ranking officers," he said. "Obviously this is not a skill level you can get in a matter of weeks."
The United States is also considering a policy change to allow some ex-Baathists join an interim Iraqi government being put together by the United Nations, the White House said.
"We are reviewing how the policies are being implemented and looking at how we can better balance the need for expertise and experience that some Iraqis have with the need for justice," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
McClellan said there was a need for experienced people in the Iraqi government.
"You want to make sure that people are being held accountable and being brought to justice, but you also have to balance that and look at the need to have expertise in the sectors within Iraq," he said.
Bremer dissolved the armed forces, security services and defense and information ministries soon after he arrived in Iraq last May. The move, which threw 400,000 people out of work, has been criticized for providing a recruiting pool of armed and angry men for fledgling guerrilla groups.