BAGHDAD, (AFP) — Iraq’s government said Monday it would not reconcile with members of Al-Qaeda or anyone who has killed Iraqis, but suggested it was open to talks with those who had fought American forces.
Reconciliation Minister Amir al-Khuzai made the comments at a news conference after US forces, in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion, suffered their deadliest month in three years in June.
Fourteen soldiers were killed, most in rocket attacks, as the nearly 50,000 American troops remaining in Iraq prepare to pull out at the end of this year.
June also was the bloodiest month so far this year for Iraqis, with 271 killed in violence.
“Reconciliation will not include those whose hands are covered with Iraqi blood, Al-Qaeda, or members of the Baath party” of Saddam Hussein, the dictator ousted by the invasion.
“Reconciliation does include those who said, ‘we resisted the occupiers for seven years, and today they are on their way to withdraw at the end of 2011, so we have to return to our lives,'” Khuzai added, referring to US forces as “occupiers,” as many Iraqis do.
Khuzai said in April that Baghdad was hoping to reconcile with any members of the Islamic State of Iraq, Al-Qaeda’s front group in the country, who do not have blood on their hands.
In the city of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, hundreds demonstrated against the minister on Sunday, accusing him of talks with those who had killed Iraqis.
“We are doing the reconciliation with Iraqis because they are Iraqis not because they belong to a specific faction,” Khuzai explained in his latest comments.
“We did not reconcile with a group, party, sect, entity or faction. We reconciled with individuals, we treated each case individually, and those who had killed Iraqis did not participate in the reconciliation talks,” he added.
Baghdad blames Al-Qaeda for the attacks against Iraqis, while the US military accuses Iranian-backed Shiite groups of killing its soldiers in the recent attacks.
Since 2003, most of the attacks against American troops have been by nationalist Sunni guerrillas and factions led by Moqtada al-Sadr, a vehemently anti-US Shiite cleric who is close to Iran, and whose Sadrist loyalists are part of Iraq’s unity government.
Since 2003, 4,469 American soldiers have died in Iraq, according to independent website icasualties.org, 3,537 in attacks. More than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since then, according to the online Iraq Body Count, which only lists documented deaths.
US officials have recently accused Iran of smuggling more lethal weapons to Shiite insurgent groups in Iraq, a charge denied by Tehran.