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Iraq Proposal Would Give Amnesty to Insurgents

LIANE HANSEN, host:

In Baghdad today Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presented a 28 point national reconciliation plan that would provide amnesty for prisoners and insurgents. The offer, however, excludes terrorists and those who committed war crimes or crimes against humanity. But the plan did not contain new initiatives to deal with sectarian violence or a proposal on how al-Maliki plans to disband the militias. NPR's Jamie Tarabay is in Baghdad. Jamie, is there much new in this reconciliation plan?

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

Well, a lot of it is stuff that we've already heard before, especially things like this national dialogue. But now Maliki's also asking religious and tribal leaders to reach out to their communities in mosques every Friday when the Iraqis come for prayer. But it's just the latest in a series of initiatives that he's been bringing in to try to restore stability to the country. Just not too long ago he introduced the Baghdad security plan and he's also got an electricity plan for the providence of Samoa.

So it's - we're waiting to see. There isn't anything that hard and fast in this plan yet. And it seems to be very general and broad. And there are still things that need to be worked out.

HANSEN: Is the amnesty offer considered a win for the Sunnis? What did the Sunni leaders in parliament say about it?

TARABAY: In some ways it is, yes, because Maliki says that he's offering an olive branch to people who were - are against the government and are attacking security forces but, you know, it's only on the condition that they renounce violence and abandon the insurgency and begin to embrace the new Iraq and the new political process.

But they're also still incredibly angry that Maliki has not seemed to address of militias in this plan. The biggest complaint from the Sunni community is that much of the Shiite militias that have infiltrated the security forces are basically going around carrying out attacks against Sunni targets and the fact that there is no mention of it in this plan so far is something that they're pretty angry about.

HANSEN: U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad held a news conference today. What did he say?

TARABAY: He was very positive. He said that Iraq had the U.S.'s total support on this and that he would do everything to make it succeed. He also said that when it came to deciding whether this amnesty would apply to insurgents who launched attacks against U.S. forces, that there needed to be a balance between reconciliation and justice. But he also said it was critical for this government and this plan to succeed, there was a lot of pressure, and that Iraqi's expect progress. They don't expect it to happen immediately but they want to be able to see some things change and some things improve, especially when it comes to direct violence on the street.

HANSEN: NPR's Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad. Jamie, thank you very much.

TARABAY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jamie Tarabay
After reporting from Iraq for two years as NPR's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Jamie Tarabay is now embarking on a two year project reporting on America's Muslims. The coverage will take in the country's approx 6 million Muslims, of different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and the issues facing their daily lives as Americans.
Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.