Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iraq Says No Chance Of Return Of Hussein's Party

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Iraq's government has said there was no chance that efforts for reconciliation with former members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party would lead to its return as a political force.

After years of war following the toppling of Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-led regime in 2003, the Shi'ite-led government says it is trying to reach reconciliation with those members of the once omnipotent Ba'ath party, who have committed no crimes.

"There are no problems with individuals, who accept peaceful political process, but neither the constitution nor the people accept the Ba'ath party practicing politics under any name," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, this month called for forgiveness for those, who were forced to join the party and had committed no crimes.

His overtures aim to reverse the disastrous divisions created by the U.S. officials, who ran Iraq immediately after the invasion, when they outlawed the Ba'ath party and sacked almost all of its mid to senior level members from government jobs. The move helped fuel a raging Sunni Arab insurgency.

Iraq has since passed legislation to reverse the purge.

But reconciliation talks with former members had sparked fears of the party's return amongst some Shi'ite politicians.

"The return of the Ba'ath as a party cannot be accepted, but there are people who have disavowed this criminal party, and the great crimes it committed against this country," Dabbagh said.

Hussein headed the Iraqi branch of the pan-Arab socialist Ba'ath party, which was founded in Syria in the 1940s, and he cracked down on the majority Shi'ites and minority Kurds, killing tens of thousands.

The constitution bans "Saddam's" Ba'ath party, leading some to believe a different Ba'ath party could be reconstituted.

Iraq's High Committee for Reconciliation has said it recently held talks with a "left wing" branch of the Ba'ath it said split from Hussein's Ba'ath party long ago, but Dabbagh was clear it could not operate in Iraq under that name.

Under Hussein, almost all officials, bureaucrats and many professionals were obliged to join the Ba'ath party.

Several well-known former Ba'athists now work in Iraqi politics, and a few did well in recent local polls, mostly at the expense religious parties judged to have governed badly.