His message is hardly a new one.

A former Baathist himself, Allawi has been outspoken in his efforts to end the so-called de-Baathification programme and re-establish the Iraqi Army.

Allawi called the US dissolution of the army last year one of the many grave errors since Saddam Hussein's fall and said he would rebuild strong security forces to combat violence plaguing Iraq.

"Mistakes, big mistakes, were made, including dissolving the army, police services and internal security forces," Allawi, a CIA-backed former exile opponent of Saddam, told Aljazeera Television. "We have begun to rectify these mistakes."

Army, Baathists dissolved

After Saddam was toppled last year, Iraq's US occupying administrator Paul Bremer dissolved the 375,000-strong army and imposed a campaign of de-Baathification to clear out the old administration.

"Generations of Iraqis went through the Baathification process.
If we paint everyone with the same brush, then we'll have to put half the population on trial"

Dr Taha Jazaa, chief editor,
al-Watan newspaper

Allawi added that he may issue a law next week reinstating some former Baath party members.

"The decision (on whether to reinstate Baathists) will be announced next week," said Allawi, who broke with the Baath party in the 1970s.

Many Iraqis agree that the US handling of Iraq - specifically related to de-Baathification and the Iraqi Army - has been disastrous.

'Catastrophic error'

Dr Taha Jazaa, chief editor of al-Watan newspaper in Baghdad, told Aljazeera.net that Washington's policies were rife with "catastrophic errors".

"Generations of Iraqis went through the Baathification process. If we paint everyone with the same brush, then we'll have to put half the population on trial."

Jazaa says that the Bush administration does not appreciate the fact that Baathism was an ideology that incorporated various sectors of society with conflicting views and beliefs.

Paul Bremer has been criticised
for implementing the policy

"There were sectarian Baathists, secular Baathists, capitalist Baathists, communist Baathists, Marxist Baathists, and even opportunist Baathists - who would use the Baath party to serve their own interests," he said.

Political analysts put the number of Baathists at about two million people, but factoring in family dependents results in a large sector of Iraqi society being marginalised - and worse - in financial straits.

Sacked without reason

Dr Wamid Nadhmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University, told Aljazeera.net that many Iraqis were dismissed from their position without any hearing or for any reason, apart from being a Baath member.

"This policy should have only been used against individuals who have blood on their hands"

Dr Ahmad Abd al-Majid,
chief editor, Azzaman newspaper

"Three thousand professors have been sacked without any compensation or salary. Where is the human rights there?" Nadhmi said.

Nadhmi voiced frustration at seeing members of the governing council - some of whom were Baathists themselves until 1978 - being permitted to lead normal lives and participate in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Meanwhile technocrats or civil servants are being unfairly targeted.

"I cannot understand why the former minister of information (Muhammad Said al-Sahaf) is allowed to leave the country in a first class airplane, but a professor gets dismissed without any salary," he said.

Unwise decision

Dr Ahmad Abd al-Majid, the chief editor of Azzaman newspaper in Baghdad, says that Bremer was foolish to listen to members of the Iraq Governing Council who advocated de-Baathification.

"Who says all Baathists were bad?" he told Aljazeera.net.

"This policy should have only been used against individuals who have blood on their hands," al-Majid said.

"I cannot understand why the former minister of information (Muhammad Said al-Sahaf) is allowed to leave the country in a first class airplane, but a professor gets dismissed without any salary"

Dr Wamid Nadhmi, professor, Baghdad University

Independent Iraqi politician Dr Raad Mowlud Mukhlis agrees. He says that the de-Baathification programme should have been replaced with a decriminalisation effort.

"The US should have listened to this suggestion. Iraq has many Baathists who are great citizens, but what has happened to them today is totally against democracy and the basics of freedom," he said.

Allawi made it clear on Saturday that he intends to reverse the de-Baathification policy and may bring back the expertise of many who worked under Saddam.

If he is to begin rebuilding security, infrastructure, and Iraqi society, then Allawi has no other choice, say analysts.