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US revs up reversal of Iraq's Baath purge

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Indeed, the US continues to face much opposition from Shiite leaders in Iraq.

Several Iraqi officials say that the Shiite-dominated parliament has already decided to water down a de-Baathification reform bill sent to it last month by Mr. Talabani and Maliki to render it meaningless. Others say that even if lawmakers were to pass it as is, it would, contrary to claims by the Bush administration, have little impact on promoting reconciliation because it's too late.

"It looks to be a little late. It has become very tough," says Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish parliamentarian close to Talabani. "Even after the hanging of Saddam [Hussein], there are those who have become tougher and say 'nothing Baathist will come back.' "

On his visit to Iraq last week, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Maliki during a meeting Friday that Iraqi lawmakers should not take their summer recess until they passed a series of laws, including the one dealing with de-Baathification reform titled The Reconciliation and Accountability Law.

"It's clear to me from the beginning that an enormous priority for Iraq, and for all of us, is a national reconciliation process that brings all Iraqis together in a single nation working for common purposes," Ryan Crocker, the new US ambassador in Baghdad, told state-owned Iraqiya TV last week. "I see this whole process of de-Baathification reform as leading to that end … we need to push forward."

The Monitor has obtained an English-language draft of the bill, identical to the one sent to parliament in Arabic, with the following headline: "Mahdi Debaath version 3, March 21, 2007."

The US denies that it wrote the draft law, but says it "facilitated dialogue and briefed key leaders on US government goals for reform."

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