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Iraq Unveils Unity Plan

June 25 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki today presented a national reconciliation plan to parliament aimed at stemming sectarian violence and offering amnesty to insurgents who haven't been involved in ``terrorist'' acts.

The 24-point plan outlines steps for disarming militias and strengthening Iraqi security forces ahead of a takeover from coalition forces, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.

Amnesty ``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,'' Maliki said in a speech carried live by Arabic television stations including al Jazeera.

The nation of 26 million has been beset by of sectarian killings and kidnappings since the Feb. 22 bombing of the Shiite Muslim Golden Mosque in Samarra, in addition to the insurgency directed at the U.S.-led forces and their allies in the Iraqi government. The reconciliation plan is the latest step taken by Maliki's new government to unify Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions in order to quell the violence and prevent civil war.

With 1,983 U.S. military personnel having been killed in combat, U.S. lawmakers said they wanted to make sure the amnesty doesn't extend to those who have attacked U.S. troops. Maliki indicated that the offer isn't being made to everyone.


``Reconciliation and national dialogue does not mean honoring and reaching out to the killers and criminals, no and a thousand times no, there is no reconciliation with those until they are punished for their crimes,'' the prime minister said.

In the U.S., Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar was among the lawmakers who said Congress will vigorously oppose any steps taken by the Iraqi government to let insurgents who killed American troops escape punishment.

Maliki ``is trying desperately to find these elements that the Sunnis will agree to,'' Lugar, an Indiana Republican, said today on CBS's ``Face the Nation'' program. ``I'm hopeful that one of the elements to the formula that he presents to the Sunnis isn't amnesty because that is going to run into solid opposition'' in the U.S.

Senator John Warner, a Virginia Republican who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that the U.S. will consult with the Iraqis on their reconciliation plan, the government there must take responsibility.

``I want the Iraqi people to take this decision unto themselves and make it correctly,'' Warner said on the ``Fox News Sunday.''

U.S. Troops

While Maliki said Iraq's parliament should set goals for Iraqi police and military force to take full control of security for the country, he didn't mention any timetable for the U.S.- led coalition to begin withdrawing its forces.

The U.S. may be preparing such a timeline. General George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has drawn up a plan that would cut by more than half the number of combat brigades in Iraq by the end of 2007, the New York Times reported today, citing unnamed American officials.

The first reductions may come as soon as September, the Times reported. A combat brigade typically has about 3,500 troops. The Times said Casey's plan would cut the number to five or six from 14 now. Not all of the 127,000 U.S. personnel in Iraq are part of combat brigades.

Both Lugar and Warner played down plans for troop reductions, saying any withdrawal will continue to be contingent on the ability of the Iraqis to manage their own security.

``It would be wrong now to say that this is the plan that we're going to operate under,'' Warner said.

`Horrific' Violence

Lugar said the violence in Baghdad and other areas remains ``horrific'' and the country isn't yet stable.

The House and the Senate, both controlled by Republicans, have rejected measures pushed by Democrats that would set a deadline for the U.S. presences.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California said the Casey plan amounts to setting a timetable and the U.S. has ``lost control of an exit strategy'' by refusing to debate how long the U.S. troops should be there.

Separately, the U.S. military announced that two soldiers were charged with violating military code by killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian and conspiring with another solider to place a gun near the body of a wounded Iraqi man.

The soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry of the Pennsylvania National Guard have been transferred to a military base in Baghdad to determine whether they should be court- martialed, the military said in an e-mailed statement.

One of the accused also threatened in a separate incident to send an Iraqi male civilian to jail and pointed a gun to his head, the military said.

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