Maliki Unveils Reconciliation Plan

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday offered an olive branch to insurgents who join in rebuilding Iraq and said lawmakers should set a timeline for the Iraqi military and police to take control of security throughout the country.

There was no mention of any timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

The 24-point national reconciliation plan would also include an amnesty for insurgents and opposition figures who have not been involved in terrorist activities. Maliki emphasized, however, that insurgent killers would not escape justice.

"The launch of this national reconciliation initiative should not be read as a reward for the killers and criminals or acceptance of their actions. No, one thousand times no. There can be no agreement with them unless they face justice," he told lawmakers, who applauded his speech.

The most controversial section of the amnesty plan was left ambiguous. Initially it was said to have excluded only those who had killed Iraqi people. But in the parliament Sunday, Maliki spoke of refusing amnesty to those who had committed terrorist acts, believed to include attacks on U.S. military personnel as well.

The plan also seeks compensation for former detainees "and those who were killed by Iraqi and American forces" and said their time spent in prison would be considered as part of their mandatory military service.

The plan won the endorsement of the senior Sunni political figure in the parliament. "In the name of Iraqi Accordance Front, I support and agree with this initiative and call upon all Iraqis to support it because it will be the first step toward security, stability and the building new Iraq," said Adnan al-Dulaimi, Accordance Front leader. The organization represents the three key Sunni political parties in the parliament.

The Iraqi parliament was to debate the plan, which is believed to face considerable opposition among hard-liners on both sides of the Sunni-Shiite divide, in sessions this week.

In the south of Iraq, the first of Japan's force of 600 soldiers being withdrawn from Iraq started crossing the border into Kuwait, Associated Press reporters and the Japanese Defense Agency reported. The Japanese withdrawal of its total force of soldiers conducting a humanitarian and reconstruction mission began with the departure of about 15 vehicles transporting trucks, bulldozers and equipment from the provincial capital of Samawah early Sunday morning.

As the Japanese ended their mission in Iraq, Maliki's reconciliation plan said there should be a timeline established for Iraqi forces to take over all security duties in the country. It included no specifics, however, on the withdrawal of U.S. and British forces, a Shiite lawmaker told The Associated Press.

The reconciliation plan also would call for a reconsideration of policies against supporters of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party. It said a dialogue should be opened with all organizations willing to participate in the political process "except al-Qaida" and hard-line supporters of Hussein.