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Iraq invites Saddam's soldiers to come home

by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Feb 15, 2009
Iraq has invited soldiers who served under Saddam Hussein's regime to come home or apply for their state pensions as part of a reconciliation process, the defence ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

The ministry is to send envoys to Iraqi embassies in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen to make contact with the ex-soldiers, General Mohammed al-Askari told AFP.

"The ministry's decision aims to achieve national reconciliation" and "settle the issue of members of the former regime," he said.

Askari said that the former soldiers would "without exception" be given one month either to sort out their entitlement to a pension or to return to the ranks of the army.

The offer did not apply to "Saddam's Fedayeen," a former militia controlled by Uday, the feared eldest son of the president.

Saddam was ousted in the US-led invasion of 2003 and later executed for crimes against humanity.

According to another defence ministry official, an estimated 23,000 ex-Iraqi army soldiers, including 9,000 officers, have taken refuge in the five Arab countries.

Saddam's army had 450,000 soldiers, of whom about 50 percent have either returned to the ranks or been pensioned.

Paul Bremer, the US official in charge in post-invasion Iraq, launched a de-Baathification campaign right after Saddam was ousted and disbanded the army on May 23, 2003.

Some three months later, he decreed the formation of a new Iraqi military but without ex-Baathists, stripping the army of experienced hands.

On Saturday, former Baathists were urged to pick up their state pensions, under a January 2008 reconciliation law authorising the pensions and their conditional reintegration into the civil service and armed forces.

The highest level former party members, however, have been dismissed along with ex-members of the intelligence services.

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Iraq spends 5 billion dollars on US defence deals
Baghdad (AFP) Feb 14, 2009
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