BAGHDAD,(Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is expected to present a national reconciliation plan to parliament on Sunday aimed at defusing the Sunni insurgency and tackling sectarian violence, political sources said.
The plan, which could be Maliki’s boldest political move yet, sets out to remove powerful militias from the streets, open a dialogue with rebels and review the status of purged members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party.
Political sources said a key element of the 28-point blueprint for reconciliation would be to draw rebel groups into the process of implementing hoped-for agreements on such questions as defining “terrorism”.
One important question will be how far Maliki, a Shi’ite Islamist who took office on May 20, will be willing to go to bring Sunni insurgents into the corridors of official power.
Hasan al-Senaid, a lawmaker in Maliki’s ruling Shi’ite Alliance, said the prime minister would offer negotiations with all armed groups that had not shed Iraqi blood. But Maliki still refuses to engage Saddam loyalists or al Qaeda, the groups responsible for much of the violence. The former exile has long been a strong defender of the sacking of Baath members from the army, a U.S.-engineered policy that critics say bolstered the insurgency.
Former Baathists are expected to get financial compensation under the reconciliation scheme.
“The De-Baathification committee will be reviewed in fine detail. Compensation will be offered,” Senaid said.
The programme will also set out to tackle militias, which are seen as among the most destabilising forces in Iraq but are difficult to disband because they are tied to political parties.
“Militias will be disarmed and integrated into civil service jobs or the armed forces,” said Senaid.
Sami al-Askari, another member of Maliki’s bloc, cast doubt on whether the plan would be ready for parliament on Sunday. But he stressed that it would mark a serious effort to ease sectarian violence that exploded after the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shi’ite shrine in the town of Samarra.
“The main task of this plan will be to try to undo sectarian tensions after the events of Samarra,” he said.
Insurgent groups have always demanded a U.S. troop withdrawal or timetable, so that issue is likely to be raised.
U.S. forces arrested a top Sunni Arab religious leader in the northern town of Tikrit, said a provincial official.
Abdullah Hussein, deputy governor of Salahaddin province, said U.S. forces raided the home of Sheikh Jamal Abdel Karim al-Dabaan and detained him and his two sons.
“Most of the provincial government institutions, including the provisional council, have suspended work to protest the arrest. Employees will not return to their offices until American forces release him,” Hussein told Reuters.
The U.S. military said it was checking the report.
Maliki scored a major victory when al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. air strike June 7. But fresh violence put more pressure on him to make his plan work.
In the northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed the local intelligence chief, Mousa Hachim, and two of his guards, Kirkuk police chief Torhan Abdul Rahman said.