New Iraq PM promises amnesty for insurgents

Allawi sympathy for 'lawful' resistance. Leader rejects US model of democracy

By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad and Raymond Whitaker

27 June 2004


Days before he is installed as Iraq's interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi has expressed understanding for Iraqis who have acted against the US-led occupation "out of a sense of desperation", and says that he plans to offer them an amnesty.

Writing exclusively in this newspaper just ahead of the official handover of sovereignty to his administration on Wednesday, Dr Allawi seeks to establish some distance between himself and his backers, Tony Blair and George Bush. He implicitly criticises the US decision to disband the Iraqi army immediately after the war, warns that Iraqi democracy "should not be a replica of an imported model from the US, Britain, or ... any other country", and stresses that the world must carry out its pledges of economic help.

The most startling departure, however, is the interim Prime Minister's comment that his government "will make a clear distinction between those Iraqis who have acted against the occupation out of a sense of desperation, and those foreign terrorist fundamentalists and criminals whose sole objective is to kill and maim innocent people and to see Iraq fail".

The objective will be "to reach out to the former group in a national reconciliation effort and invite them to join us in a fresh start to build our country's future together, while at the same time isolating and defeating the latter group". To achieve this "we are drawing up plans to provide amnesty to Iraqis who supported the so-called resistance without committing crimes".

Even some members and units of the newly trained security forces have joined the uprising against the invaders.

Dr Allawi's words appear aimed not only at reassuring them, but at exploiting a widening split among opponents of the occupation.

Insurgents killed at least 17 Iraqis yesterday, when a car bomb was detonated in Hilla, south of Baghdad. And a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, accused by Washington of links with al-Qa'ida, said it had kidnapped three Turkish workers and threatened to behead them.

The storming of police stations and the killing of so many Iraqi police is creating a backlash against the Islamic resistance. Shia and Sunni Muslim preachers have denounced the death of 100 Iraqis in a co-ordinated offensive on Thursday, and expressed fear that foreigners are hijacking the resistance.

Anger at the attacks on the police is a boost for Dr Allawi, who has promised to restore order. Even Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shia cleric whose militia have been fighting US troops since the end of March, denounced the "terrorists and saboteurs". He offered to help police protect government buildings, hospitals, pipelines and infrastructure.

In Fallujah, seen as a Sunni hotbed, one armed group is making clear it believes the suicide bombings against Iraqi targets are discrediting their movement, and says it will scale down attacks on US forces for now.

An aide to Dr Allawi said: "It is very important to distinguish between those who resisted occupation through desperation and those who are genuinely seeking to destabilise the country through terrorism ... An example of where the blind labelling of people caused much chaos was the disbanding of the entire army post-war. We are still suffering the consequences."