Iraqi PM urges timeline for Iraqi troops to take control

24-point national reconciliation plan also includes amnesty for insurgents who have not been involved in terrorism.

al-maliki 88 (photo credit: )
al-maliki 88
(photo credit: )
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday offered an olive branch to the insurgents who join in rebuilding Iraq and said lawmakers should set a timeline for Iraqi troops to take control of security throughout the country. There was no mention of any timetable for the withdrawal of US-led forces in Iraq. The 24-point national reconciliation plan would also include an amnesty for insurgents and opposition figures who have not been involved in terrorist activities. Al-Maliki declared however, that insurgent killers would not escape justice. "The launch of this national reconciliation initiative should not be read as a reward for the killers and criminals or acceptance of their actions. No, one thousand times no. There can be no agreement with them unless they face the justice," he said. The new Iraqi leader, in power just more than a month, said he was realistic about the difficult road that lay ahead. "We realize that there is a legion of those who have tread the path of evil (who) ... will continue with their criminal acts," he said. But he held out an offer of peace to those who would renounce violence, while threatening retribution and punishment to those who would not. "To those who want to rebuild our country, we present an olive branch... . And to those who insist on killing and terrorism, we present a fist with the power of law to protect our country and people," told lawmakers, who applauded his speech. The plan won the endorsement of the senior Sunni political figure in parliament. "In the name of Iraqi Accordance Front, I support and agree with this initiative and call upon all Iraqis to support it because it will be the first step toward security, stability and the building new Iraq," said Adnan al-Dulaimi, Accordance Front leader. The organization represents the three key Sunni political parties in parliament. In the south of Iraq, the first of Japan's force of 600 soldiers being withdrawn from Iraq started crossing the border into Kuwait, according to Associated Press reporters and the Japanese Defense Agency The Japanese withdrawal of its total force of soldiers conducting a humanitarian and reconstruction mission began with the departure of about 15 vehicles transporting trucks, bulldozers and equipment from the provincial capital of Samawah early Sunday morning for the 350 kilometer (210 mile) journey south to Kuwait. As the Japanese ended their mission in Iraq, al-Maliki's reconciliation plan said there should be a timeline established for Iraqi forces to take over all security duties in the country. It, however, included no specifics on the withdrawal of American and British forces, a Shiite lawmaker told The Associated Press. Al-Maliki said the general amnesty would exclude "those who committed crimes against the Iraqi people." The most controversial section of the amnesty plan was left ambiguous. Initially it was said to have excluded only those who had killed Iraqi people. But in parliament Sunday, al-Maliki spoke of refusing amnesty to those who had committed terrorist acts, believed to include attacks on American military personnel as well. The plan also seeks compensation for former detainees "and those who were killed by Iraqi and American forces" and said their time spent in prison would be considered as part of their mandatory military service. An early draft of the plan also called for a general pardon for thousands of prisoners who are determined not to have committed "crimes and clear terrorist actions." Hundreds of prisoners have been pardoned and release in recent months in what is seen as a bid by the Shiite-dominated government to appease Sunni Arab anger over allegations of random detentions and maltreatment. The proposal also would set rules of engagement for military offensives, requiring military leaders to take into consideration and special conditions that might argue against an attack. That was seen as a bid to alleviate Sunni anger over the alleged killing of innocent civilians and bystanders by US and Iraqi forces. The reconciliation plan also would call for a reconsideration of policies against supporters of former President Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party. The plan said a dialogue should be opened with all organizations willing to participate in the political process "except al-Qaida" and hard-line supporters of Saddam. Shortly after taking office May 20, al-Maliki vowed to take over security issues from American and other foreign troops in all of Iraq's 18 provinces within 18 months. He already has announced plans to take over security from coalition forces in the southern province of Muthanna next month and Japan ordered the withdrawal of its 600 ground troops home from the area. In Washington, The New York Times reported that US Gen. George W. Casey Jr. has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence in Iraq, with the number of American combat brigades projected to decrease to 5 or 6 from the current level of 14 by the end of 2007. The first reductions would involve two combat brigades that would rotate out of Iraq in September without being replaced, according to the plan Combat brigades, which generally have about 3,500 troops, do not make up the bulk of the 127,000-member American force in Iraq. The report cited officials describing a classified briefing at the Pentagon this week by Casey, the top US commander in Iraq. Military officials in Iraq, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition on anomymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information, said there were plans to start the withdrawal by pulling out two brigades in late summer or early fall. Those troops could included forces currently based in the west of Baghdad and in Salaheddin province to the north of the capital. The administration has repeatedly said that U.S. troops will stay in Iraq until Iraqi security forces can defend the country against a lethal insurgency that rose up after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein. Casey said earlier this week that he expected reductions in US forces this year but did not agree with congressional efforts to put a timetable on the effort. "I don't like it, I feel it would limit my flexibility" and give the enemy a schedule to focus on, he said.