06/26/2006, 00.00
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Erbil bishop: "Courageous decisions" needed for "positive" reconciliation plan

Mgr Rabban said the disarmament of militias, held to be fundamental for the success of Prime Minister al-Maliki's project, should start with those who are in the service of men and parties forming part of the government.

Erbil (AsiaNews) –The initiative of national reconciliation taken by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, is "positive", but no one should imagine the proposal alone will yield results. Now is the time for "courageous decisions" and "clear moves", like the disarmament of the militias "of those surrounding Al-Maliki".

"We must be optimistic," Mgr Rabban Al Qas, Chaldean Bishop of Amadiyah and Erbil told AsiaNews when asked about the initiative taken by the Iraqi prime minister. In his view, the "handing in of arms" was "fundamental". However, he added, "al-Maliki himself is surrounded by people who have militias: it is from there that he must start, so others will also be willing… The militias must be disbanded and those who form part of them, if they want to, should join the police or the army."

To seek to bring peace between Sunnis and in regions still stricken by unrest, Mgr Rabban judged as valid the concession of an amnesty for all those who thus far have backed the revolt. "But this is not the same as when someone goes for the sacrament of reconciliation, where he is told to go in peace and to be a good Christian."

The Iraqi bishop finally expressed "hope" and "confidence" in the capabilities of his country's army to succeed in taking control of the land, with the help of the American and other forces present.

The 28-point "national reconciliation plan", submitted yesterday by al-Maliki to parliament, provides for an amnesty for those who have rebelled, as long as "they have not shed Iraqi blood". Expressly excluded are Al-Qaeda and radical supporters of Saddam. He said: "The plan is open to all those who want to enter the political process to build their country and save their people as long as they did not commit crimes." As for those were guilty of crimes, the prime minister promised "there will be no reconciliation until they are punished for their crimes." That goes for those who have carried out "terrorist attacks", including attacks against foreign forces.

Al-Maliki also vowed to stop the insurgency and to reconcile Shias and Sunnis, however, as noted by several observers, "he did not supply details". Al Jazeera said details were "ambiguous".

Gulf News said the programme also aimed to tackle militias, which are seen as among the most destabilising forces in Iraq. But they will "difficult to disband because they are tied to political parties".

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