Iraq lifts ban on Sunni politicians

Three Sunnis banned from March polls over alleged links to Saddam's Baath Party are allowed back to politics.

    Scores of candidates were barred from the March polls after a panel said they had been Baath Party members [EPA]

    Iraq's parliament has lifted a ban on three Sunni Muslim politicians who had been kept from running in national elections because of accusations they had ties to Saddam Hussein's ousted government.

    Parliament voted 109-61 on Saturday to allow Saleh al-Mutlaq, a former legislator of the cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition, and two others to return to political jobs.

    Haidar al-Mullah, an Iraqiya spokesman, said the decision marked a major step toward assuring Sunnis that they will not be sidelined in the new Shia-dominated government which Nouri al-Maliki plans to announce on Monday.

    "What has happened today is the starting point for more national reconciliation," al-Mullah said.

    Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Baghdad, described the move as an "appeasement" to Sunni politicians and said it should enable al-Maliki to speed up the process of forming the government

    "We understand that his [al-Maliki's] longstanding rival, the former prime minister Iyad Allawi, had said on Friday he's agreed to be part of the government, on condition that actually they become real partners," she said.

    "It seems that all the main hurdles for now have been overcome but you never know, in Iraqi politics everything can change in the 11th hour."

    Al-Mutlaq, who is a vocal al-Maliki critic, was expected to take up a post in the new government.

    Al-Mutlaq was the most prominent of hundreds of candidates who were barred from the elections after a Shia-led panel said they had been members of Saddam's outlawed Baath Party.

    The ban was seen by critics as a Shia attempt to monopolise Iraq's government.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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