[JURIST] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki opened a national reconciliation conference in Baghdad Saturday by signaling a reversal of the ban on former Baath Party [BBC backgrounder] members in the Iraqi government that has applied since the days of the US Coalition Provisional Authority. In a speech to delegates Maliki indicated that although he would still "draw a distinction between Baathists whose hands are not stained with blood and those who committed the most heinous crimes against Iraqis and still continue to kill innocent people," he urged parliament to review the existing laws as regards rank and file party members in light of the "principle of forgiveness." Several Sunni and Kurdish politicians welcomed the move, saying that it recognized the ordinary circumstances and the rights of many people who joined the Baath Party in the Saddam era, and obviated a problematic "deBaathification" process which had been more political than legal and had heightened sectarian tensions.
Last month the Iraqi government's DeBaathification Commission [official website] said it planned to submit a proposal [JURIST report] to Iraq's parliament that would allow most members of the now-defunct Baath Party to be reinstated to public life. The Bush administration has been urging the Iraqi government to shift the commission's focus to promote "accountability and reconciliation" in the interests of diminishing violence. The Los Angeles Times has more.