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Iraqi Government Invites Former Army Officers Back

BAGHDAD -- The Iraqi government is inviting officers below the rank of colonel who served in Saddam Hussein's army to report for duty while those above the rank of lieutenant colonel will be eligible to receive a pension.

Major General Muhammad al-Askari, a Defense Ministry adviser, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) that the ministry is coordinating with Iraqi embassies in various countries to facilitate the return of former army officers who take up the government's offer.

Lieutenant General Najib al-Salihi, head of the Free Officers and Civilians Movement, told RFI that the Defense Ministry's move will help achieve national reconciliation.

Thousands of officers were discharged after the former regime's army was disbanded by U.S. civil administrator Paul Bremer following the ousting of Hussein's government in 2003.